New Delhi: US President Donald Trump’s clever speech at Ahmedabad’s Motera stadium Monday not only worked as a campaign pitch for himself in light of the American presidential elections later this year, but also a vote of confidence for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he generously complimented.
The most important takeaway from his comments, however, was his focus on India’s strategic and tactical concerns vis-a-vis China, Pakistan and Islamic terror. Here is a roundup of his speech:
Strategic & military concerns
In his speech, Trump identified the two main strategic concerns of India — its western and eastern neighbours, Pakistan and China, respectively. He also identified India’s tactical need to be a military power, so that it can deter China and take punitive action against Pakistan if there are any signs of mischief.
Alliance against China
Addressing the audience at the Namaste Trump event, Trump said, “There is all the difference in the world between a country that seeks to claim power through coercion, intimidation and aggression, and a country that seeks to grow by setting its people free, and unleashing them to chase their dreams, and that is India.”
Trump’s reference to China as a country that seeks to claim power through intimidation is perhaps the most direct statement an American president has made about Beijing on Indian soil. It highlighted the context of the US trying to draw India into a strategic alliance against China.
Trump may have not used the term strategic alliance while referring to India and the US, but he said something more interesting — “In America and in India, we know we are born for a higher purpose”.
By going on to invoke the importance of God, Trump not only addressed his domestic constituency back in the States, but also sent a message to India about how the countries shared ideals and ideas, apart from a common target. In a sense, this was a philosophical underpinning to a strategic alliance.
Good relations with Pakistan
While Trump repeatedly referred to China as a hostile country, he made it very clear that the US had a very good relationship with Pakistan. He spoke about how he had leaned on Pakistan to curb militancy and terrorism and seen good results, thus sending a positive message to the country, whose assistance, it hopes, will help the US secure a peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban on 29 February in Doha.
Effectively, Trump told India that it was up against two nuclear powers, and while it was on board to fight/counter one of them, it was friends with the other and could help India handle matters.
Military as a tactical response
Speaking at length about the glory of the American forces and boasting that the US had spent up to $2.5 trillion on modernising their military equipment, Trump made a strong pitch for defence sales to India.
This came at a time when there is a helicopter deal between the countries in the works, the US Department of Defence has moved the Congress about the sale of an air defence system to India, and Trump has expressed his eagerness to bring UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Trump made it clear that he saw India as a key buyer and wanted the US to become the No. 1 supplier of weapons to India.
“The US and India are firmly united in the iron-clad resolve to defend its (their) citizens from Islamic terrorism,” Trump said at Namaste Trump.
The President of the United States, aka POTUS, brought in a third strategic concern for India by underlining how both countries knew the pain and turmoil caused by Islamic terrorism.
Reference to India’s religious diversity
In perhaps the only subtle part of his speech, Trump carefully alluded to what was happening in India on the domestic front, that is, concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Talking about religious diversity, he named all of India’s religions, made references to the sacred banks of the Ganga, the Golden Temple, as well as Jama Masjid.