Pakistan important but needs to do more to fight terror: Tillerson

More than two months after US President Donald Trump called out Pakistan for providing “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered an unequivocal message to Pakistan to dismantle its terror infrastructure or face consequences.
In Islamabad, Mr. Tillerson held extensive talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. During the talks, Tillerson said that Pakistan is “so important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship,” but it was important for Islamabad to keep its commitment on fighting terror.
Assuring his country’s continued support, Pakistani PM told Mr. Tillerson: “We have produced results. And we are looking forward to moving ahead with the US and building a tremendous relationship.” He added, “The US can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror.”

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Diwali light for India-US relations: Trump lauds Modi & India, Indian-Americans

Is it Diwali time for India-US relations? Clearly, there is a lot to cheer about, and the reassuring Diwali message from US President Donald Trump should light up the spirit of his “friend,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a gesture reaffirming his commitment to deepening India-US relations, the flamboyant American president, along with his daughter Ivanka, celebrated the Hindu festival of lights – Diwali – at the White House. The Diwali bash was attended by many prominent Indian-Americans in the Trump administration, including Nikki Haley (US Ambassador to the UN), Seema Verma (Administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and Ajit Pai (Chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission). A video of the Diwali celebrations at White House was posted on the president’s Facebook page.
In hosting the Diwali celebrations at the White House, Mr Trump was continuing the tradition followed by his predecessors. But given the upswing in India-US relations during the first few months of his administration, despite initial apprehensions about policy volatility, there is a lot to cheer about how this vital relationship is shaping up.
Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US in June and his first meeting with Trump had set an ambitious, multi-layered agenda for upscaling India-US relations across the spectrum.

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Trump-Modi dinner: What’s cooking, what’s on menu?

It promises to be a gourmet meal as the leaders of the world’s oldest and largest democracies have their first full-spectrum meeting and dinner in Washington DC on June 26. The buzz and hype surrounding India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fifth visit to the US is relatively subdued – the carnival-like festive atmosphere and feverish energy that marked his first visit to the US, with his rock-star like show at Madison Square Garden, in September 2014 seems a distant echo, but even though the horizon of expectations has shrunk there are still some appetising dishes on the table which both sides can pick and choose to suit their taste and some serious business to transact.
Looking ahead, cutting through minutiae and complexity of issues, the really important question for India is whether the new US president believes in a “New India” which PM Modi is trying to create and whether this new India synthesises with Trump’s promise of Making America Great Again. If there is win-win fit, then indeed the chronic “hesitations of history” will be passe, and a new symphony can steer India-US relations onto a higher trajectory. Read more…

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Mattis-Parrikar talk: US assures India of sustaining momentum in defence ties

Amid anxiety in India over the Trump administration’s H1B visa policy, there is a reassuring note from Washington about sustaining the momentum in burgeoning defence relations between India and the US. Days after US President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Secretary James Mattis spoke to his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar and underscored the new administration’s commitment to build upon the transformation in India-US defence relations accomplished in the last few years.
In the first conversation between the two defence ministers since the change of guard in Washington, Secretary Mattis committed to build upon the tremendous progress in bilateral defense cooperation made in recent years, underscoring the strategic importance of the US—India relationship and India’s role in advancing global peace and security,” Pentagon Press Secretary Capt Jeff Davis said in Washington DC on February 8.
On the strategic and security side, the signalling from the Trump administration has been largely positive. In his telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump had assured that the US “considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world.” The two leaders also decided to bolster the partnership between the United States and India in broad areas such as the economy and defense.

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Trump sings America First anthem

With the stirring anthem of “Making America Great Again” and the mantra of America First to empower the country’s “forgotten men and women,” Donald J. Trump was sworn in as 45th president of the US at Capitol in Washington D.C on Friday noon (January 20). It was vintage Trump in many ways as he enunciated his core message of focusing on America’s economic resurgence and staying away from distractions of internationalism. “From this day forward, a new vision will vision will govern our land. It’s going to be only, America,” said Mr Trump in his typical straight talk. The message coming out from the inauguration speech was unambiguous: under Trump’s watch, the US will be more focused on the domestic agenda, with the overarching objective of restoring prosperity to millions of Americans who, as he has consistently argued, have ended as losers of globalisation. There was hardly any utterance on the America’s leadership in the world, except a terse statement about reinforcing old alliances and forming new ones. Mr Trump’s clarion call for uniting the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism and his promise that the US under his watch “will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” will be closely dissected in capitals of the world, and signal a muscular national security posture, which could entangle the US in a new global war on terror.

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The Trump Anxiety Index: Why India needn’t worry

The spectacular headline-hogging victory of billionaire tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump, who took charge as the 45th president of the US on January 20, has unsettled the global consensus about America’s leadership and position in a conflicted and mutating world order.
Nearly all parts of the world, impacted by the US’ policies directly or indirectly, are speculating feverishly about the ramifications of the Trump presidency. The dominant sentiments are that of anxiety, befuddlement, uncertainty and unpredictability. These disparate worries and apprehensions can be coalesced and crystallised in the Trump Anxiety Index (TIA), which will rise and decrease in proportion to the policy and postures his presidency will adopt towards major cross-cutting issues.
The questions are proliferating by the day, but the Trump anxiety is more pronounced in some countries and regions of the world. On a scale of 1 to 10 on Trump Anxiety Index, China, Mexico and Pakistan will score high, maybe 7-8. By contrast, India scores low, maybe 3-4.
Why India is not so much worried about the Trump presidency? The answer to this all-important question is not all that esoteric. While there is some speculation about a possible reset in India-US relations in some areas, the picture is largely positive and optimistic, and it won’t be an exaggeration to say that there will be more continuity than disruption and potential subversion.
Looking ahead, the picture for India-US relations is largely optimistic, albeit the road ahead is fraught with some challenges and imponderables. Both George Bush Junior and President Obama had raised the bar for what the latter has called “the defining partnership of the 21st century,” and it is now up to President Trump to seize the initiative and leave his indelible imprimatur on this important relationship. Trump’s dream of Making America Again should blend with continued support for India’s rise, the ongoing project of making India great again. The hesitations of history, as PM Modi famously said, are well behind us, and it’s time for the world’s largest democracies to compose a new symphony amid challenges, uncertainty and free-floating anxiety. Read more…

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No Trump worry, US envoy says India-US ties will be on upswing

Shed Trump anxiety; India-US relations will be on an upswing. This was the reassuring message from US envoy Richard Verma amid ripples of worries in some sections in India about what the incoming Trump presidency will bring for India.
Alluding to an all-round transformation of India-US relations in the last two years, Mr Verma, the first Indian-American to be appointed as the UA ambassador to India, underlined that the US will continue to support India’s rise and will be New Delhi’s closest partner in months to come. “India is a country on the rise. We will support India’s rise and continue to be your closest partner,” the US envoy told an audience of diplomats, businessmen and journalists at a luxury hotel in the Indian capital on December 6. He was speaking at an interaction organised by industry body CII and Indo-American Friendship Association.
Providing a snapshot of the dramatic upsurge in the India-US relations, Mr Verma projected that “this upward trajectory will continue.” Allaying apprehensions about any possible diminution of commitment by the Trump administration towards India, the envoy argued that the momentum in the India-US strategic partnership will continue as there is widespread bipartisan consensus across the political spectrum in Washington.

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Deconstructing Trump victory: What numbers tell

As Donald Trump won a “stunning” victory, poll numbers of the “political earthquake” have already begun to be deconstructed. How was Trump able to upset the apple cart, when overwhelmingly all poll data before the elections showed Clinton as the likely president-elect? As ‘not my president’ becomes the rallying cry for American citizens who are shocked to see a political amateur become their leader, it is clear something somewhere was dismissed, not taken sufficiently into account or not factored at all into the equations. What is now being closely questioned is whether Trump won or Clinton lost — and it seems very likely that the latter is what won Trump the US presidency.

Donald Trump’s electoral map looks unlike what Republican nominee maps have usually looked like. Clearly, the rage of the rustbelt went under-appreciated, even in the Trump camp, where internal polling did not see a victory for the business tycoon. The same can be said of what is clearly a deeper anguish and anxiety over race. And thus, while it was expected that white, working class individuals with no more than a high-school education would form the base support for Trump, exit polls indicate that all white people, regardless of class, gender and education levels, took what a panelist on MSNBC called “the last stand” against the browning of America.
In the end, disinterest and apathy, sexism and a genuine dislike for Hillary Clinton, due to her close identification of the Washington status quo, are all factors that ended up costing Clinton the elections and tilting the balance in Trump’s favour.

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