Washington, DC – US President Donald Trump will meet visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time on Monday (June 26) since Trump took office in January 2017. The White House will also be hosting, for the first time, a visiting foreign dignitary for a one on one meeting, followed by bilateral delegations, and cocktails followed by dinner.
“Look forward to welcoming India’s PM Modi to @WhiteHouse on Monday. Important strategic issues to discuss with a true friend!” Trump tweeted from his presidential @POTUS Twitter account.
“Thank you @POTUS for the warm personal welcome. Greatly look forward to my meeting and discussions with you @realDonaldTrump,” replied Modi, who was yet to meet Trump for the first time.
The social media engagement was earlier highlighted by a Senior White House official while briefing journalists on the visit at the White House.
“They are the world’s most-followed political leaders on social media,” the official said, adding, “President Trump is slightly ahead of Modi.” As of Saturday morning, Trump had 32.7 million Twitter followers, with Modi clocking in at 31 million.
Summing up the social media traits of both leaders and India’s growing young population, Ravi Batra, New York based attorney and Chair of the US National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs told IAT, “PM Narendra Modi promises Indian-Americans that India will be a global force for good because India’s 800 million youth’s dreams are “Young Dreams,'” and being an American, I know that India’s Young Dream is the American Dream.”
“The durable partnership between US and India is driven by people. He said India protects its citizens when in trouble. Like Trump, Modi celebrated his SM (social media) use to be connected with people,” added Batra.
“That shows the kind of leaders they are: Both are innovators; both are business executives,” said the Trump administration official. While previewing the visit the official hoped, “I think they’ll find a lot of common ground.”
“We anticipate that their discussions will be broad- ranging, hitting on a variety of regional and global issues that would seek to advance our common priorities, including fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and prosperity,” the official said.
Earlier while announcing the visit, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted, “The President looks forward to discussing ways to strengthen ties between the United States and India and to advance our common priorities: fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and reforms, and expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. President Trump and Prime Minister Modi will look to outline a common vision for the United States-India partnership that is worthy of their 1.6 billion citizens.”
During the background briefing to preview the visit, the White House official stressed “defense trade” as the highlight amongst the rest of the generic topics on the agenda. “Defense trade has supported thousands of American jobs. Since 2008 in fact, India has signed over $15 billion in defense contracts with the US,” the official noted.
“The US is very much interested in facilitating India’s defense modernization and is helping enhance its role in the Asia-Pacific. We believe that a strong India is good for the US. Now of course we’ve seen rapid progress in defense and security partnership over the last few years and president Trump very much wants to build on that momentum,” the Trump Administration official told journalists.
“Last year’s designation of India as a major defense partner was extremely important and we’ll see a concrete expression of this important designation during this visit,” added the White House official.
Hiccups to Watch
Although the White House official announced plans by the Trump Administration to roll out the “Red Carpet,” in welcoming Indian leader Modi, there will be certain subtle speed breakers on the road to accelerate this journey of US-India cooperation which started during the Clinton presidency and was nurtured in the Bush and Obama eras.
One of the burning issues for Indian professionals and entrepreneurs alike is the H1B visa.
The Trump Administration in April, 2017 decided to protect US workers from H-1B program discrimination by providing greater transparency and oversight.
Announcing the multi-agencies effort, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the US Civil Rights Division had cautioned, “The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against US workers.” “US workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims,” Wheeler added.
Over the months, the White House reiterated its support after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the decision and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) outlined steps to adopt multiple measures to deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse.
On the other hand, Indian Prime Minister Modi is also under pressure politically and from the Indian business community on the H1B visa issue. Indian opposition party Congress had earlier urged Modi to demand and obtain firm assurances from Trump on reversing his decision to tighten granting of H-1B visas, which affects Indian professionals.
Prominent among others is an undercurrent tension of economic nationalism as Modi advocates “Make in India,” stipulating manufacturing on Indian soil while Trump’s “America First” warns American firms to stay home and keep jobs on American soil.
The shadows of withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement by Trump and his speech in the Rose Garden of the White House accused New Delhi of trying to extract billions of dollars in foreign aid in exchange for signing the accord.
“India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it: India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours,” President Trump had told journalists in the Rose Garden speech.
Indian leader Modi arrived late Saturday night in Washington, DC after a visit to Portugal and is scheduled to go to the Netherlands as the last stop on his three-nation foreign trip.