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No guarantees

No guarantees

There will be much concern among foreign policy mandarins in New Delhi after the recent US-China summit, in which Chinese President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Donald Trump took part in lengthy discussions on a whole host of issues. Top of the pile, however, was the threat posed by a nuclear weapons-armed North Korea and trade. After their meeting, US President Donald Trump tweeted: "I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!" What followed soon after was an affirmation by Trump that Washington no longer considers China as "currency manipulator"—a significant about-turn from the rhetoric he peddled during his bid for the US presidency. He backed this stunning assertion with the rationale that it was not as if the Chinese currency is deliberately kept "weak", but that the American dollar is "getting too strong". This fact received confirmation from a US Treasury spokesman. This major concession is a complete break from the promise Trump had made during his election campaign. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump argues that if the US officially deems China to be a currency manipulator, it would jeopardise any attempt to resolve the threat North Korea poses. While both sides remain divided on how to deal with North Korea and there is little clarity on how they will move ahead on trade-related concerns, recent developments indicate that they have arrived at some common ground. There is a definite change in Beijing's tone with regards to North Korea. If the North Korean government of Kim Jong-Un goes ahead with a test of either an intercontinental ballistic missile or a nuclear device, Beijing has promised to take stern action. In an editorial in the State-backed Global Times on Wednesday, it was argued that North Korea must rein its nuclear ambitions, or else China would "severely limit" oil supplies. China even recently decided to abstain from voting on a UN Security Council resolution condemning last week's chemical attack on civilians in Syria, and not back Russia by vetoing it.

At a time when New Delhi's relationship with China has hit new lows, it would be interesting to see how far Trump will back Indian interests when push comes to shove. For the uninitiated, Beijing's desire to undermine India's security and strategic interests on multilateral forums at every possible turn and New Delhi's subsequent response in playing the 'Tibet card' has soured relations. One could even argue that issues of US-China trade or the North Korea problem are entirely different from India's concerns over its hostile neighbour and that the Trump administration will deal with these matters separately. It is hard to tell which way the wind will blow, but one thing is for certain. New Delhi must not take the previous Barack Obama administration's claims that the US-India ties "will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century".

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