With Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that relations between India and the US were growing with “great deal of speed”, the two countries pledged to enhance their strategic cooperation as Major Defence Partners during a meeting here on Monday between him and US President Donald Trump, according to the White House. “They pledged to enhance their cooperation as Major Defence Partners, resolving that two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries,” the President’s press office said.
“The two leaders discussed the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and India and their shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” it added. The Indian side characterised their encounter as a “warm and productive meeting.” They “discussed bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit a day after India, US, Japan and Australia held talks to begin the quadrilateral process for greater cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
It followed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s declaration that India would have an important strategic role as one of the democratic anchors of security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region that would also embrace Japan and Australia. Separately, Trump had a joint meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to discuss “a free and open Indo-Pacific region”.
While unveiling his new Afghanistan strategy in August, Trump had said that with India “we are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region”. The Manila meeting was their second extended round of talks after Modi’s White House visit in June. On Sunday they had a brief interaction at a dinner hosted by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.
With Trump’s transactional business approach to international relations, the statement said that the US leader “expressed appreciation that Indian purchases of oil from the United States have surpassed 10 million barrels in recent months, and expressed confidence that stronger energy cooperation will be a geopolitical and economic game changer for both countries.”
Modi asserted that he was looking forward to hosting the US delegation that includes Trump’s daughter Ivanka to the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad “showcasing innovation and collaboration between India and the United States,” the statement said.
Before their meeting at the hotel Trump and Modi gushed with mutual admiration, both for their countries and themselves. “The relations between India and the United States are growing very rapidly, with a great deal of speed, and they’re getting deeper and more comprehensive,” Modi said.
“I also feel that these relations between India and the US, they are not just for our mutual interests, but they go much beyond that,” he said in Hindi speaking through an interpreter. “And we are working together for the interest of the future of Asia and for humanity as a whole in the world. And there are many areas where we are working together and we can work together in the future, too.”
Trump, who is having the second bilateral encounter with Modi, said, “He’s become a friend of ours.”
He said that Modi was “a great gentleman doing a fantastic job in bringing around lots of factions in India — bringing them all together. That’s what I hear, and that’s good news. And it really is”.
“It’s a lot of good reports coming out of India,” Trump added. “So I want to congratulate you.”
Acknowledging the praise from Trump, Modi said, “In the past few days, wherever President Trump has travelled and whenever an opportunity arose to talk about India, he has expressed very high opinion about India and also things which are full of hope whenever he has spoken about India.”
Addressing Trump, he added, “I would like to assure you that whatever the expectations are of the world, of the United States, from India, India has always worked and made efforts to do our bit and to fulfill those expectations. And we will continue to do so in the future, too.”
Earlier while addressing the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam on Friday, Trump had said, “Modi has been working to bring that vast country, and all of its people, together as one. And he is working at it very, very successfully, indeed.”
Hailing India as “the largest democracy in the world”, Trump said, “Since India opened its economy, it has achieved astounding growth and a new world of opportunity for its expanding middle class.”