Hours after a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that India has always believed in “giving” rather than “snatching”, and has never claimed other’s territories. Modi’s remarks came in the wake of rising assertiveness by China in the region, especially in the South China Sea. “If you see the history of India, it has believed in giving rather than asking. Moreover, it has never believed in snatching,” Modi said, while addressing the Indian community in Manila on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit. Modi said that in India’s history, dating back 5,000 years, it has “never done anything bad to any country”.
During the first and second world wars, he said, India didn’t need to claim any territory and that Indian soldiers fought to bring peace. Stating that Indians constituted the largest peacekeeping force in the world, he underlined that India was the land of Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi. However, Modi said that only if India was strong and capable, would the world accept to live in peace, indicating the importance of economic and military strength.
The Prime Minister’s remarks were also reminiscent of his comments in Japan in 2014, when he said that some countries “encroach” on others, some “enter the seas”, and some “capture other’s territory”. They came around two hours after his second bilateral meeting since June with Trump and a day after Indian, American, Japanese and Australian officials met for the first “quadrilateral” meeting, which had lasted for an hour and 40 minutes on Sunday.
At Monday’s 52-minute bilateral meeting, Trump called Modi a “friend” and a “great gentleman”, who “is doing a fantastic job” in bringing together a lot of groups in India. “It’s great to have Prime Minister Modi here. We’ve had him at the White House, and he’s become a friend of ours and a great gentleman doing a fantastic job in bringing around lots of factions in India — bringing them all together. That’s what I hear, and that’s good news. And it really is. It’s a lot of good reports coming out of India. So I want to congratulate you,” he told reporters at the beginning of the meeting at Sofitel Philippine Plaza hotel’s Mindoro room.
The meeting began more than an hour behind schedule, with Modi saying, as Trump listened, that they are working together for the “interest of the future of Asia” and “for humanity as a whole in the world”. From the Indian point of view, this statement clearly placed security and stability of Asia at the centre, while linking it with the rest of the world.
“The relations between India and the United States are growing very rapidly with a great deal of speed. And they’re getting deeper and very comprehensive. I also feel that these relations between India and the US, they are not just for our mutual interests, but they go much beyond that. We are working together for the interest of the future of Asia and for humanity as a whole in the world. And there are many areas where we are working together and we can work together in the future, too,” said Modi.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Trump had spoken highly of India, in a reference to the US President’s remarks at the APEC meeting where he praised Modi’s leadership. “In the past few days, wherever President Trump has travelled and whenever an opportunity arose to talk about India, he has expressed a very high opinion about India and also things which are full of hope whenever he has spoken about India,” he said.
Hinting at India’s role in the South Asia strategy as well as in the Indo-Pacific, Modi said that India would meet all expectations. “I would like to assure you that whatever the expectations are of the world, of the United States, from India, India has always worked and made efforts to do our bit and fulfill those expectations. And we will continue to do so in the future, too,” Modi said. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that Trump shared his “impressions of his Asia visit”, including the situation related to North Korea and the state of affairs in the middle east.
Modi said that he looks forward to hosting the US delegation at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad this month, showcasing innovation and collaboration between India and the US. The US President’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump’s visit was discussed, and Modi offered any further assistance required.
The Ministry of External Affairs’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “Strengthening global strategic partnership. PM @narendramodi had a warm and productive meeting with President @realDonaldTrump on the margins of 31st ASEAN and related Summits.
Discussed bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.” “Held productive talks with @POTUS on further strengthening India-USA relations. @realDonaldTrump,” Modi posted on his official Twitter account. In a statement, the White House said that Trump and Modi discussed the “comprehensive strategic partnership” and shared a commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” — a direct reference to Chinese activities in the region and the quadrilateral meeting.
“They pledged to enhance their cooperation as Major Defense Partners, resolving that two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries,” the White House said, indicating a push for American defence sales to India. Indian officials, however, downplayed the meeting between India, US, Japan and Australia. Jaishankar said that the “Quad meeting” found a “passing mention”, and went on to cite several “multilaterals” and “pluri-laterals” with different countries.
“Diplomacy is not just bilateral and multilateral… there is something in between… this is the changing nature of diplomacy,” he said. Asked whether defence ties were discussed, Jaishankar was cryptic: “They discussed defence cooperation.” Jaishankar said the two leaders also discussed Afghanistan, and India’s supply of wheat and “quick impact” projects, including irrigation and housing projects, to the country.
The two leaders also exchanged notes on the Rohingya refugee situation. The Indian side spoke about the “violence in Rakhine state”, and Modi shared details about India’s humanitarian assistance. Jaishankar described the talks, which exceeded the allotted time by around seven minutes, as “cordial, constructive and comfortable”. The leaders, he said, discussed “what is contemporary” and “what has just happened”, in a reference to contemporary events.
Trump, according to the White House, appreciated India’s purchase of oil from the US, which has surpassed 10 million barrels in recent months, and “expressed confidence that stronger energy cooperation will be a geopolitical and economic game changer for both countries”. Trump and Modi had met informally on Sunday, ahead of the dinner hosted by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.