IN 1,499 words, the Modi-Trump joint statement is shorter, sharper and more focussed, unlike the India-US joint statements issued in the last three years with the Obama administration (3,752 words in 2016, 5,688 words in 2015, 3,446 words in 2014).
“There is no ambiguity in this joint statement, it is a sharp and direct document, shorn of too much fat and flab. The idea was to capture the five-month-long discussions in non-verbose style,” said a top government source who negotiated the document from the Indian side.
Here is a breakdown of the joint statement, and a comparison with the past statements:
On Pakistan and terror
Titled “Shoulder-to-Shoulder Against Terrorism”, this paragraph makes an explicit reference to “cross-border terrorism” in a joint statement for the first time. The most recent such reference was in the White House statement during a phone call between NSAs Ajit Doval and Susan Rice, when the latter condemned the September 18 “cross-border attack” in Uri.
Following the designation of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a “specially designated global terrorist”, the leaders welcomed a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations, listing proposals.
“The leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups,” it says.
The leaders committed to strengthen cooperation against threats from extremist groups, such as al Qaeda, Da’esh/ IS, Jaish-e Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D Company and their affiliates, including through deepened collaboration on UN terrorist designations.
Recognising an important milestone in India-US counter-terrorism partnership, the leaders applauded the finalisation of an arrangement to facilitate the sharing of terrorist screening information. They also called for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terrorist attacks to justice.
China and Asia Pacific
In 2014, the two sides, for the first (and only) time, named South China Sea in the joint statement. They also came up with a separate vision document on Asia Pacific.
This time, the statement uses the term “Indo-Pacific” for the first time, which is a more contemporary term than “Asia-Pacific”. It uses terms like “democratic stalwarts” and “responsible stewards” which are aimed at China, takes a common position against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and expresses reservations about the Belt and Road Initiative.
“As responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi agreed that a close partnership between the US and India is central to peace and stability in the region… In accordance with the tenets outlined in the UN Charter, they committed to a set of common principles for the region, according to which sovereignty and international law are respected and every country can prosper. To this end, the leaders:
* reiterate the importance of respecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce throughout the region;
* call upon all nations to resolve territorial and maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law;
* support bolstering regional economic connectivity through the transparent development of infrastructure and the use of responsible debt financing practices, while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law, and the environment…”
“The leaders applauded the completion of a roadmap for cooperation under the 2015 US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, which will serve as a guide for collaboration in the years to come. They resolved that the US and India should look to each other as priority partners in the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean region.
While the statement reiterates the “major defence partner” status to India, the element of “Make-in-India” initiative and the concept of co-production is missing. This is exactly what the Trump administration’s focus on “America first” policy entails.
“President Trump and Prime Minister Modi pledged to deepen defence and security cooperation, building on the US’s recognition of India as a major defence partner. The US and India look forward to working together on advanced defence equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the US. Reflecting the partnership, the US has offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems…”
“Noting that the US-India defence relationship can be an anchor of stability, and given the increasingly strengthened cooperation in defence, the US hereby recognises India as a major defence partner… The US will continue to work towards facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners. The leaders reached an understanding under which India would receive licence-free access to a wide range of dual-use technologies in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives.
In support of India’s Make In India initiative, and to support the development of robust defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain, the US will continue to facilitate the export of goods and technologies, consistent with US law, for projects, programmes and joint ventures in support of official US-India defence cooperation.”
Trade and economic cooperation
Unlike in the past, there is emphasis on “free and fair trade”. The issue of market access and job creation, both priorities of the Trump administration, are reflected.
“Noting that extensive economic and tax reforms launched in their respective countries will unlock immense economic opportunities for both countries, the leaders committed to further expanding and balancing the trade relationship and to removing obstacles to growth and jobs creation…
“They also resolved to pursue increased commercial engagement in a manner that advances the principles of free and fair trade. To this end, the US and India plan to undertake a comprehensive review of trade relations with the goal of expediting regulatory processes; ensuring that technology and innovation are appropriately fostered, valued, and protected; and increasing market access in areas such as agriculture, information technology, and manufactured goods and services…
“In order to substantially increase bilateral trade, they pledged to explore new opportunities to break down barriers to the movement of goods and services, and support deeper integration into global supply chains, thereby creating jobs and generating prosperity in both economies.”
With Westinghouse filing for bankruptcy early this year, the situation is quite precarious on civilian nuclear cooperation. Last year, they had decided to get the contracts finalised by June this year, but that has not happened. “We have been told that by the end of this year, Westinghouse will rework its current situation and will be back in business,” said Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.
“Prime Minister Modi and President Trump looked forward to conclusion of contractual agreements between Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India for six nuclear reactors in India and also related project financing.”
“Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, the leaders welcomed the start of preparatory work on site in India for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse… Both sides welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017.”
International cooperation and coordination
Unlike in the past, the statement reflects a stronger position on North Korea and strongly condemns continued provocations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), emphasising that its destabilising pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes poses a grave threat to regional security and global peace.
Trump welcomed India’s contributions to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity and security. In accordance with India’s Think West policy, the leaders resolved to increase cooperation, enhance diplomatic consultations, and increase tangible collaboration with partners in the Middle East.
Reiteration & Reaffirmation
On both NSG and UNSC permanent membership, there was continuity and support.
Global entry programme
Despite initial apprehension of visa curbs, there is no change. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar pointed to this paragraph, when asked about the H1B visa issue — although there is no specific reference to it.
“Applauding the entrepreneurship and innovation of Indians and Indian-Americans that have directly benefitted both nations, President Trump welcomed India’s formal entry into the International Expedited Traveler Initiative (global entry programme) in order to facilitate closer business and educational ties,” says the joint statement.
What is missing and unaddressed
The issue of non-immigrant visas (H1B, H-4); climate change; Defence Technology and Trade Initiative; Make-in-India; US investment in Smart Cities and Swachh Bharat.