Trump’s new security calculus: India leading power & partner, China chief rival

In US President Donald Trump’s newly-unveiled National Security Strategy (NSS), India is toasted as a leading global power, with Washington flaunting its love for New Delhi and deepening strategic and economic ties with this emerging power. Russia and China are painted as rivals and the US’ top national security threats, which threaten to “challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”
If there is one country which has come out shining in Trump’s “America First” NSS, unveiled in Washington on December 18, it’s India, the world’s most populous democracy and the fastest growing major economy. Seeking to bolster India’s rise, the NSS also backs India’s concerns obliquely on the China-led One Belt One Road project and asks Pakistan to take “decisive action” against terror groups operating from its territory.
Clearly, there is a lot to rejoice for India, but the prospects of adversarial relations with Russia and China presage a conflicted international geopolitical landscape which New Delhi will have to tread cautiously.
Shaping a balanced regional order and curbing China’s assertiveness align with New Delhi’s larger strategic goals, but given its own delicate relationship with China and extensive economic ties New Delhi will have to do a delicate diplomatic juggling act to avoid the impression of joining the US-led China containment design, which has been reinforced by the launch of the Quadrilateral dialogue among leading maritime democracies of the region, including India, US, Japan and Australia.

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With Quad on mind, Modi, Trump bond in Manila

With the new geostrategic alphabet of Quadrilateral shaping up as a backdrop, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Donald Trump at a glitzy hotel in Manila to map an ambitious agenda for enhanced India-US strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Modi-Trump meeting is easily the show-stealer at the ASEAN summit in Manila as the region, specially China, will be watching closely how the world’s two largest democracies plan to deepen their connect in this strategically located region.
With paparazzi frenziedly clicking away, a beaming Mr Modi, with Mr Trump seated by his side at the Sofitel Plaza hotel, struck an upbeat note on the future of India-US relationship, which has acquired a new bounce under the Trump presidency.
In his opening remarks before he began talks with Mr Trump, Mr Modi spoke about deepening and expanding India-US relations and underlined that the two countries can work together not just bilaterally, but on an entire spectrum of cross-cutting issues for the benefit of the region, the world and the mankind.

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Amid churn in Indo-Pacific, US plays India versus China game

Ahead of his maiden visit to India, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has projected the US as the reliable partner India needs, positioning New Delhi and Washington as two “two bookends of stability” in the Indo-Pacific region which is being challenged by China’s “irresponsible” rise.

Courting India ahead of his first official visit to New Delhi next week, Mr Tillerson projected an upbeat trajectory of the India-US relations that have been on an upswing ever since President Donald Trump assumed office earlier this year. In a defining foreign policy speech at an American think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Tillerson said that the US is “determined to dramatically deepen ways” to build an “ambitious partnership” with India, particularly with an eye on the Indo-Pacific region and China, which will have “far-reaching implications for the next 100 years.”
Going by Mr Tillerson’s comments, it would appear that the US is pushing for a renewed China containment strategy, with India as a key balancer against China’s assertiveness. Should India offer to be part of this strategy? Opinion is divided among India’s strategic establishment. Meera Shankar, India’s former ambassador to the US, has struck a note of caution. “It’s a culmination of the trend of strengthening strategic partnerships in the region by the US to balance China,” Mrs Shankar told India Writes Network. “A stronger India will ipso facto act as a balancer, without getting into overt containment strategy,” she said. The US should help to bolster India’s rise and capabilities, she said.

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A Forecast of the Modi-Trump Meeting

This is not because of the absence of any outstanding issues between the two countries. There are a number of areas of mutual interest and common concern. These include advancing defence and strategic cooperation, trade surplus/deficit, international terrorism – issues on which Trump has expressed strong opinions in the past, although not specifically with respect to India-US relations.
The environment in In contrast to Prime Minister Modi’s previous visit to Washington for meeting President Obama, which was high profile in character with lots of advance publicity and hype, his forthcoming trip to the US to meet President Trump is being projected as business-like with very little hype. Almost all, if not all, of the analysts’ expectations on the outcome of the meeting are low to modest and not without reason either.
These talks will be held is also different. Earlier, one of the primary motivations for the US to strengthen strategic cooperation was the long-term prospect of India emerging as a major economic and military power and the need for crafting a viable Asian security architecture given the uncertainties about the evolution of China’s long term goals. In contrast, the Trump administration – largely reflecting the President’s ideology – is more concerned with short term results and gains for the US. Hence the US withdrawal from the Paris Convention, abandonment of the TPP, calls for renegotiation of NAFTA, demands on NATO members to increase spending, etc. Given this, the long term projections of India emerging as a major power after a couple of decades is not likely to play a major role in Trump’s approach towards India.

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US NSA’s visit to South Asia: Implications for India

The recent visit of the newly appointed US National Security Adviser, General McMaster, to South Asia was the first high-level visit by a senior figure in the Trump administration to the region. The Trump administration’s regional priorities has been reflected in the pattern of high-level visits in recent weeks: Vice President Pence has visited South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia; US Defence Secretary, having visited Japan and South Korea, is currently visiting Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Egypt and Djibouti whilst Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, having visited Japan, South Korea and China, went on to visit Western Europe and Russia.
Following the meeting between him and the Army Chief, the Pakistan military’s press release, in an apparent reference to his Kabul interview, stated, “Pakistan itself a victim of state sponsored terrorism, strongly rejects allegations of employing proxies from its soil. US NSA acknowledged Pakistan Army’s efforts in eliminating terrorism and infrastructure, assuring US support to bring peace and stability in the region and globally.” The Pakistan Army’s officially released video clip of the meeting shows a tense atmosphere at this meeting.

The shifting geopolitics in Southwest Asia could be behind the terse public messaging on the part of the Pakistan military. It could also be their calculation that an increased number of US troops in Afghanistan would imply greater US dependence on the supply routes via Pakistan; the tense relations with Russia might also mean increased difficulty in using the alternate northern supply route. The use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in the adjacent Nangarhar province against the ‘Wilayet-e-Khorasan’ terrorists was a signal not just to Russia but also to Pakistan because of their hostility to the latter. The Congressional requests for funding for Pakistan by the present administration have not shown any reduction from the previous years although the president has the authority to withhold funding if Pakistan does not cooperate in cracking down on terrorists inimical to US operations in Afghanistan.

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H-1B visa: Trump trouble for Indian IT industry

Looking to fulfil one of his major election promises, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to revamp a temporary visa programme that allows foreign workers, mostly Indian IT professionals, to find jobs in the US, a move that is set to hit the Indian IT sector.
Riding on his rallying cry of “Buy America, Hire America,” Mr Trump visited a manufacturing firm in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a state he snatched from Democrat rival Hillary Clinton in the presidential election last year, before putting his signature on the order that would seek to address alleged abuses in the H-1B visas which are used largely by the tech industry. H-1B visas allow 65,000 workers and another 20,000 graduate student workers each year.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce cautions the Indian IT industry to brace for taking a hit by Mr Trump’s signing the executive order pointing out that nearly 86 per cent of H-1B visas issued for workers in computer space go to Indians. This number is expected to dip to 60 per cent or even less, an ASSOCHAM study says.

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US NSA targets Pakistan, focus on scaling up counter-terror cooperation with India

US National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster is known for his plain-speak. And he did precisely that by sending out a tough message to Pakistan for its sponsorship of cross-border terror, ahead of his visit to New Delhi during which he focused on expanding counter-terror and defence cooperation with India.
In New Delhi, Lieutenant General McMaster held a series of meetings with the top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. “NSA McMaster emphasized the importance of the U.S.-India strategic relationship and reaffirmed India’s designation as a Major Defense Partner,” said a statement from the US embassy. “The two sides discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including their shared interest in increasing defense and counterterrorism cooperation.”
In Kabul, just before he reached Islamabad, McMaster had some blunt talk for Pakistan. “As all of us have hoped for many, many years, we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after (militant) groups less selectively than they have in the past and the best way to pursue their interest in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy and not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” Mr McMaster told an Afghan news channel in Kabul.
What is equally significant is that he nudged Pakistan to abandon the path of selectively targeting terrorists, a blunt message which found resonance in New Delhi. The US Embassy in Pakistan said as much in a statement that Mr McMaster “stressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms.”

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Re-igniting India-US ties: Trump ‘looks forward’ to hosting Modi

It promises to be the big-ticket diplomatic meeting of the year for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The dates are not out yet, but the White House has already struck an upbeat note, saying US President Donald Trump looks forward to hosting the Indian leader.
“President Trump has said he looks forward to hosting Prime Minister Modi in Washington later this year,” a White House statement said on March 29, following a telephonic conversation initiated by Mr Trump the day before to congratulate Mr Modi on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s sweeping victory in elections to legislatures in four Indian states, including the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. “President Trump also expressed support for the Prime Minister’s economic reform agenda and emphasized his great respect for the people of India,” said the statement.
Although Mr Modi and Mr Trump may have a brief meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit of the world’s major and emerging economies in Germany in July this year, it will be the Indian prime minister’s first bilateral visit to the US after the change of guard in Washington in January this year.

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Trump Call after Modi’s Triumph in UP elections

The success in recent state elections in India has bolstered the global profile of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with many world leaders, including US President Donald Trump congratulating the 66-year-old Indian leader. Mr Trump called up Mr Modi on March 27 and congratulated him on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s success in recent state elections, including the landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh, the Indian state whose population surpasses that of the combined population of Britain, France and Germany.
This was the third telephonic contact between the two leaders – the first two being soon after Trump’s US presidential poll victory in November last year and the second after his formal swearing-in in January this year.
Underlining India’s keenness to sustain the momentum in ties with the US built up during the presidency of George Bush and Barack Obama, India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval made back-to-back visits to Washington.
Mr Trump and Mr Modi had last spoken to each other in January when they discussed the security situation in South and Central Asia. India and the United States will “stand shoulder to shoulder” to fight global terrorism, the White House had said after that interaction.

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