Washington, DC – US President Donald Trump on Thursday (Feb. 8) spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, discussing regional issues and international flash points, according to the White House.
“The leaders pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” said the White House readout of the phone call, noting that the leaders “affirmed President Trump’s South Asia strategy,” and “reiterated their commitment to supporting Afghanistan’s security and stability.”
Last month US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster said, “India can seize the strategic opportunity – through trade and investment – to become an alternative hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Maldives, which is reeling under political turmoil, figured in the call as the country is facing tug-of-war between its apex court and the Yameen government. Refusing to implement decision of the top court to release opposition politicians, the Yameen government declared a state of emergency and arrested Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge, Ali Hameed.
In their phone call, “Both leaders (Trump and Modi) expressed concern about the political crisis in Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law,” according to the White House.
Exchanging views on Burma, the two leaders discussed “ways to address the plight of the Rohingya refugees.” Although Bangladesh and Burma recently agreed repatriation of more than half a million Rohingya refugees, who are in Bangladesh, the US expressed its opinion that this is not the right time for the return of Rohingya refugees.
In the background of the Winter Olympics taking place in South Korea where North Korea is also participating, both President Trump and Prime Minister Modi discussed, “further steps to ensure denuclearization of North Korea.”
Vice President Mike Pence leading the US delegation to the games in PyeongChang (South Korea), minced no words against North Korea. Speaking in Tokyo on his way to the Winter Olympics, Pence promised the US and its allies, including Japan, would keep maximum pressure on Pyongyang until it took steps toward “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.”
“Finally, the leaders agreed to strengthen security and economic cooperation as they look forward to the 2+2 ministerial dialogue between their defense and diplomatic officials in April,” concluded the White House readout of the bilateral call.
Last year during the June visit of Prime Minister Modi to the White House, both leaders had announced the “2+2 dialogue.” According to the official details, the participants would be External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman from India, while the US side would be represented by their counterparts Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
Interesting to note that US Ambassador Juster in Delhi last month noted, “America First” and “Make in India” are not incompatible, adding, “Rather, investing in each other’s markets will be mutually beneficial – it will increase our economic interactions and volume of trade, lead to collaboration on emerging technologies, and create jobs in both countries.”