Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told US President Donald Trump that both countries can rise beyond bilateral ties and work jointly for the future of Asia, reflecting their growing convergence on strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific region. During their wide-ranging talks which took place on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines, Modi assured Trump that India will try to “live up to the expectations” of the US and the world and also thanked the US President for speaking “highly” about India during his trips.
The meeting came a day after officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia held their talks to give shape to the much talked about quadrilateral alliance to keep the strategically important Indo-Pacific region free, open and inclusive.
“The cooperation between India and US can rise beyond bilateral cooperation and both countries can work for the future of Asia and the world…We are moving ahead together on many issues,” Modi told Trump in his opening remarks.
The US has been pitching for greater Indo-US cooperation in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region where China has been ramping up its military presence.
“Wherever President Trump has gone and wherever he got an opportunity to talk about India, he spoke very highly about India. He expressed optimism about India and I am assuring that the expectation the world has, the expectation the US has, India has been trying to live up to that expectation and will continue to do it,” said Modi.
After the 45-minute meeting at the Sofitel hotel where Trump is staying, Modi tweeted “Held productive talks with @POTUS on further strengthening India-USA relations. @realDonaldTrump”.
Briefing reporters later, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar described the meeting as “co-ordial, constructive and very comfortable” conversation on bilateral, regional and global issues.
He said the meeting was mainly focused on economic issues including trade and investment.
The two sides discussed how to grow the economic ties and improve market access to each other.
He said the two leaders also discussed matters relating to defence cooperation, counter-terrorism, proliferation, the Korean crisis and situation in the Middle East, and the Gulf.
A fair amount of time went into the discussions on Afghanistan, Jaishankar said, adding that Prime Minister Modi briefed Trump on the recent supply of wheat through sea route.
They also discussed the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State where violence against the Rohingyas have forced more than 600,000 people to flee the country to Bangladesh.
In the meeting, Trump described Modi as a “friend”.
“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,” Trump said according to the transcript released by the White House.
“A lot of good reports are coming out of India. So I want to congratulate you,” he told Modi.
Trump had on Friday praised India’s “astounding” growth after it opened up its economy and also lauded Modi, saying he has been working successfully to bring the vast country and its people together.
Speaking at a gathering of CEOs on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang last week, Trump cited India as one of the countries in the Indo-Pacific region making strides.
The use of the term “Indo-Pacific” by President Trump has led to speculation that it may have something to do with Washington preparing the ground for a revival of the so called Quadrilateral strategic alliance between US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China’s rise.
The move to set up the quadrilateral alliance comes in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. The US has been favouring a larger role for India in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region.