The Joint Statements presented by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi in the White House Rose Garden were not intended to be a repeat of the triumphal Madison Square Garden event hosted in 2014 for Modi, but to establish the direction of Indo-US relations under the new American administration. The possible direction and pathways are extrapolated from the leaders’ remarks in the Rose Garden and in the Joint Statement published by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs on 27 June 2017. Those documents are a guide to the topics discussed and relevant bilateral issues not addressed in the statement are also assessed. Among the latter are the controversial H-1B work visas to the US that benefit India.

This paper will explore the domestic and international engagements agreed to by the leaders, and those that, by omission, raise concerns. “Make in India” and “America First” are contentious and speak of both leaders’ national goals, while their strategic partnership focus was on defence and security with reference to stability but not to a shared strategic vision for the Indo-Pacific region. The effect of the Indo-US relationship on global or regional trade may be limited, as Trump and Modi guard their countries’ economic interests.

Key points

  • The leaders’ Joint Statement and Rose Garden speeches are indicative of possible future directions for the bilateral relationship.
  • Modi’s pathway for the relationship saw convergence between his “vision for a new India” and the President’s vision to “make America great again”.
  • Trump’s focus was on developing a trading relationship that would be fair and reciprocal.
  • Both Modi’s and Trump’s election campaign slogans framed areas of discord around US and Indian domestic policy priorities.
  • The leaders’ agreed international stance is “steady as she goes”, with some notable omissions: no reference to a joint strategic vision for the Indo-Pacific, China is not named and climate change not mentioned.
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