Millennium Post

The warm Indo-US current

As Japanese Prime Minister summed up the point of the G20 Osaka edition in his words, "We want to make it a meeting that focuses on where we can agree and cooperate rather than highlighting differences", Trump and Modi's awaited interaction finally took place. Mike Pompeo and Jaishankar had set the tone for this meeting earlier this week in New Delhi during Pompeo's visit. It was speculated that US' disappointment over India's increased tariffs against 28 US products such as almonds, apples, lentils et al, would take a toll in this meet, especially after Trump tweeting his disappointment a day before meeting Modi. He had described New Delhi's recent imposition of retaliatory import tariff as "unacceptable", desiring a withdrawal. However, the bitterness, if there was any in substantial amounts, was not only because of India's retaliation. After hiking tariffs on the import of aluminium and steel from India, the US compounded it with the withdrawal of GSP that India used to benefit from. India's retaliatory tariff hike serves the purpose of a negotiating tool more than a retort. It should not be forgotten that India is the "tariff king" in Trump's view as stated by himself when a commotion over 100 per cent tariff on Harley Davidson bikes was brought up. It is critical for the US to not forget that it levies 330 per cent tariffs on Indian tobacco. In the words of Jaishankar, "when you have trade, there will be trade issues", this trade tariff standoff is natural and certainly not unilateral. Both countries are a party to exploits in the matter and both share the spoils. Hence, it would be a concerted effort to reach an agreement that is found suitable in both ends. It was in the interest of both Modi and Trump to direct the issue of trade conundrum to their officials who will have to find the solution the two leaders desire. The world is aware of US's trade theatrics and the ongoing China-US trade impasse stands testimony to it. But as the Japanese PM reminded us, it is a meeting to cooperate on similar grounds not highlight differences and both Modi and Trump did exactly that in their trade discussion. But that was not all. The dialogue shifted to 5G, Iran as well as security and defence. As is well known, India stands on the verge of rolling out 5G services to its humongous consumer base. While it has been widely understood that Trump regime has curtailed Chinese tech giant Huawei's ambitious 5G rollout in the US by barring use or installation of Huawei 5G technology equipped devices in critical infrastructure and offices related to the security establishment, US has also been invoking a similar decision in its allies to corner Huawei and China. With Japan and Australia already in the loop, Trump's push for India stands justified. But for India, its decisions are equivalent to its sovereignty and under no pressure would it negotiate with its sovereignty. Hence, Modi's diplomatic stance of assuring Trump of potential collaboration between India and US in the 5G sector is an outright resistance to US' pressure as it continues to be engrossed in the trade war with China. Iran is where the US assured India of stability much to India's concerns. Citing economical, strategic as well as energy concerns, Modi pushed for maintaining stability in the Gulf region. Going by the presence of large Indian diaspora and India's strategic interest in Chahbahar port, India very much becomes a relevant player in the Gulf instability. Though it has reduced import of Iranian crude to zero following US' withdrawal of sanctions which allowed allies to import Iranian crude for a limited time, Indian concern for Trump's theatrics in the Gulf was largely allayed by assurances of maintaining peace by the President himself. S-400 could have muddied waters but Trump's bypass of the Indo-Russian deal, which again is a matter of India's separate bilateral relations with Russia, signifies a due thought given on US's account to Indo-US bilateral ties. While the US could still make a point with its CAATSA backing the argument, choosing to ignore it has been one of the most mature decisions by Trump as after the meeting he observed how India and US have become great friends with unprecedented closeness. As mature and responsible democracies of the world, the US and India have the onus of maintaining peace and stability through mutual cooperation in every way possible. With the increasing protectionism in the trading world today and the rise of global terrorism making headways in south Asia, increased Indo-US collaboration over the defence, security, trade as well as technology is a crucial addition in the fray; one which India has to cultivate while maintaining similar grounds with China and Russia.

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