Modi in US: Dinner with President Donald Trump, red carpet welcome for PM

PM Modi will stay at the 200-year-old Willard Hotel, located less than 500 metres from the White House. The hotel has hosted legends like Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration and Martin Luther King Jr before his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | Washington D.c. | Updated: June 25, 2017 2:11 pm
pm narendra modi, donald trump, us-india, modi-trump dinner, white house, united states, H1B visas, paris agreement, india news, indian express PM Narendra Modi and Donald Trump will have their first meeting on Monday afternoon.

President Donald Trump will host visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a “working dinner” on Monday, the first for a foreign leader at the White House in his five-month term. Trump has hosted dinners for Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at the Mar-a-Lago golf estate in Florida, but this is the first such dinner at the White House.

Officials, who are keen to portray “good optics” for the Modi visit, are projecting the dinner invite as a reflection of Trump’s personal warmth for Modi.

The PM, who is visiting the US for the fifth time in three years, will arrive Saturday evening (Sunday morning India time). Modi arrives to a vastly changed atmosphere from the time he was last in Washington DC, just over a year ago, and this is his first sit-down meeting with Trump. They have spoken thrice since Trump was elected. Their last conversation was a congratulatory call made by the US President after the BJP won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

Modi will stay at the 200-year-old Willard Hotel, located less than 500 metres from the White House. The hotel has hosted legends like Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration and Martin Luther King Jr before his famous “I have a dream” speech.

As schedules stand, Modi and Trump will have their first meeting on Monday afternoon. Interestingly, while the Indian side has lowered expectations from the meeting — officials have maintained this will be a first, “get-to-know each other” kind of trip — the US side has talked up the visit. Senior Trump administration officials said on Saturday that the White House is very interested in making this a “special visit”. “We’re really seeking to roll out the red carpet,” the official said.

Striking a more pragmatic note, an Indian official said, “This meeting is about giving a new direction, setting priorities in the current atmosphere and consolidating gains from the previous years.”

The agenda is thus likely to be quite open, broad-based and partly contentious, and is expected to cover some, if not all the tricky issues — including H1B visas, Paris climate pact, Make in India etc.

For the American administration, defence partnership, trade and market access are going to be a key part of the talks. The American side would be represented in the meetings by top leaders, including Vice-President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defence Secretary James Mattis, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, told The Sunday Express, “This visit appears to have a heavy premium placed on getting PM Modi and President Trump comfortable with one another, as it will be their first meeting in person. I don’t believe there will be major deliverables emerging from it. Nor have major deliverables really emerged from his other get-to-know-you meetings with leaders.”

Richard M Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in US India Policy Studies at DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “My expectations are quite modest. Mainly I am hoping it goes smoothly, with little friction. So far the Trump administration has not offered much detail in terms of how it will approach India, apart from a few cursory mentions. We have seen a few instances where India has been targeted as a concern on trade and immigration matters. So I do hope that the two leaders hit it off on a personal level, even if the two leaders have a difficult time meshing their respective agendas. The relationship is simply too important to fall into disrepair.”

One of the key concerns on the Indian side is the issue of H1B visas for Indian professionals. US officials said on Friday that if the matter comes up, the American administration will respond to it.

Ayres, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia from 2010 to 2013, said, “My educated guess is that the leaders may state their respective cases on known issues of friction, then ask their staff to find ways forward. I do not expect to see any announcements of resolution on H1Bs, for example, which in any case in large measure requires legislation via the US Congress in order to make any major changes.”

In the US system, the Congress has authority on immigration law, so the executive branch can only make relatively minor changes.

Rossow believes Trump has the “less flexible agenda” between the two. “He is committed to carrying forward actions that speak to the voting base that brought him to power, and to tearing down constructs built during the Obama administration. Prime Minister Modi has shown the ability to ‘court’ the US without suffering a backlash at home; but whether he can be seen as giving concessions on tricky trade issues is another matter.”

Briefing US-based media on Friday, a US administration official said, “We’ve seen rapid growth in defence and security partnership over the last few years, and President Trump very much wants to build on that momentum. And last year’s designation of India as a major defence partner was extremely important, and I think we’ll see a concrete expression of this important designation during this visit.”

Observing that this defence trade has supported thousands of American jobs, the official said since 2008, India has signed over US $15 billion in defence contracts with the US.

As Rossow pointed out, “New US defence deals always play favourably in Washington DC.”

During the meetings, India would also look at the US for stronger cooperation on counter-terrorism and cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

“The US and India are both committed to combating all forms of terrorism and strengthening their cooperation in areas like terrorist screening, intelligence and information sharing, terrorists’ use of the Internet, and, of course, terrorist designations,” the US official told reporters here. “I think we can expect to see some new initiatives on counter-terrorism cooperation,” the official added, indicating the possibility of a terror group or individual being designated by the US, as reported by The Indian Express earlier.

Indian officials said Pakistan may figure in the discussions, as well as China, in the context of “global and regional security”, which is a big part of the agenda for discussions.

Officials pointed out that Trump has known India as a businessman and had visited Mumbai earlier. Like Modi, he is quite active on Twitter, and as an official quipped, is slightly ahead of Modi in number of followers.

Nevertheless, in a depature from the convention in Washington DC, the two leaders will not take questions after their press statements, US officials told reporters.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. D
    din
    Jun 26, 2017 at 8:43 pm
    Great future for the world - wish it is above success despite an attempt by congress and Pakistan to pour yogurt in the dairy milk
    Reply
    1. B
      Black and Blue
      Jun 26, 2017 at 5:31 am
      Highly Commendable, PM Modiji has given a fantastic speech, highly appreciated, Please Speak about the civil rights violations in India, what we should eat, drink, wear, live, watch, pray, practice, religious intolerance, caste discrimination, how we should conceive/give birth, unscrupulous extremist religious elements on the streets, the list is endless. THESE ARE THE QUESTION THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND CONGRESS ARE GOING TO ASK PM MODIJI. PM Modiji act now for a better BJP Govt. for now and for many many years to come'
      Reply
      1. C
        Chintan
        Jun 26, 2017 at 4:26 am
        Oops! Trump might have beef for his dinner, while Modi eats his shuddh vegetarian dish. I hope our fringe fanatics who are trying very hard to set India back by atleast 200 years are ok with it.
        Reply
        1. K
          Khushwant Singh
          Jun 25, 2017 at 9:42 pm
          I bet some people are so negative that they will die of it. They don't seem to see anything positive in life.
          Reply
          1. F
            Facts anyone
            Jun 25, 2017 at 9:04 pm
            Are all these people commenting about beef illiterates? go read the law, it was implemented by your beloved secular congress way back in the 1960's. The Govt is just implementing the law as it was formulated by the secular brigade. Well but it needs brains to find facts and heart to accept the truth as is. Which none of you slaves have. People like you either Grow up the hard way or drop dead in the name of imaginary virgins.
            Reply
            1. S
              Sankaran Krishnan
              Jun 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm
              PM Modi approach the US administration with an open mind and he don't have any issues unlike US president Trump who has to prove himself his credibility which is at stake for him and definitely not his authority which USA lost after the Obama era. The USA administration has to come to terms and discuss the Business Interests or else there are many Countries who are willing to fill the gap provided by the USA like the Nuclear Deal which other Countries are executing whereas USA failed to move on their Businesses for the sake Liability clause in case of accidents at Nuclear sites and shows them very poorly if they fail to overcome the issue. The same is applicable for Defence Partner and Make in India program and let us see how US Businesses move forward to clinch the deal in their favour. Also India will follow give and take policy only and it is up to USA to follow suit or else be ready to lose the Businesses !!!
              Reply
              1. G
                George Cruz
                Jun 25, 2017 at 8:58 pm
                Sir, well said
                Reply
              2. S
                Sanjay Lod
                Jun 25, 2017 at 12:54 pm
                s: /0lGk-jd71pY s: /egDG_LepPQw s: drive.google /open?id 1evWmBQ6ys-04v4BuczhsLA3bEGRfQpeqQQtUNQZ73jk
                Reply
                1. B
                  Blah.blah
                  Jun 25, 2017 at 12:36 pm
                  Hilarious comments guys!
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments