Trump’s perception of India as friend will matter greatly: Ashely Tellis


US President Donald Trump’s visit to India gives another opportunity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to strengthen his perception of India as a friend, which will matter greatly if he gets re-elected this November, says Ashley Tellis, an influential foreign affairs analyst.

Tellis, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C., said that despite Pakistan’s backing on the recent US-Taliban deal, Mr Trump not visiting the country signals the growing US-India ties. “What Pakistan did regarding the Taliban is clearly not enough for a visit? On the other hand, while it’s not clear what Trump thinks of India, he seems to like Modi,” a news report quoted Mr Tellis as saying.

President Trump had reportedly shot down a proposal to visit Pakistan during his visit to the subcontinent. Earlier, the then US president Barack Obama had also avoided such an itinerary during his visit to India in 2010 and 2015. Mr Tellis further added Mr Trump’s visit to India is important since “it offers PM Modi another opportunity to bond with Mr Trump, which will matter greatly if he gets re-elected this November.”

The report also cited an unnamed Indian official who described this growing “camaraderie” between the two leaders as “grudging admiration for a fellow street-fighter,” underlining that it explains Trump’s participation in both spectacle and substance across Ahmedabad, Agra, and Delhi during his whirlwind visit to India.

Counter-terrorism training centre

President Trump and PM Modi would also sign an agreement to set up a counter-terrorism training centre as part of a broader bilateral agreement on homeland security to be signed during the US president’s visit to Delhi on February 25. According to a news report, the details have been kept under wraps but would be revealed later on.

Behind Modi’s courtship of Trump 
Unravelling reasons for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ardent courtship of President Trump, Mr Tellis writes presciently:  “Modi’s courtship of Trump was part of a considered strategy to keep the United States committed to India. Whereas many other world leaders reacted to Trump’s election in 2016 with bewilderment and horror, the Indian prime minister sought to charm and disarm his impulsive American counterpart,” he writes in an article entitled,  “The Surprising Success of the U.S.-Indian Partnership,” published in Foreign Affairs.  
“In public, Modi lavished attention on Trump and wrapped him in trademark bear hugs. In private, he patiently parried Trump’s demands on everything from Afghanistan to India’s peace process with Pakistan to bilateral trade with the United States. In so doing, Modi signaled that the United States was of vital importance to India and sought to persuade Trump that even an asymmetrical U.S.-Indian partnership could be mutually beneficial. And Trump seems to have bought it, given his boast that Modi promised him a boisterous welcome by “seven million people” in the Indian prime minister’s home state of Gujarat.”