Addressing a huge gathering at Ahmedabad’s Motera Stadium, US President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “true friend” and hinted at “a very, very major trade deal” with India soon. He said, “I believe US should be India’s defence partner”, but also added that “Our [US] relationship with Pakistan is a very good one”.
ThePrint asks: What are 3 biggest takeaways for India from Donald Trump’s speech in Gujarat?
Trump’s speech was thoughtful, comprehensive & touched on almost all aspects of India-US relations
Former foreign secretary
US President Donald Trump’s speech was thoughtful, comprehensive and touched on almost all aspects of the India-US bilateral relationship.
There are several aspects of the India-US partnership that are important for India, and President Trump rightly emphasised them. First is the economic partnership. While Trump praised India’s achievements, he also said that the trade relationship needs to be discussed and that he is hoping for a big trade deal. He also mentioned that he found PM Modi to be a tough negotiator. The second aspect was the security ties. He highlighted how the India-US military relations are “now stronger than ever before”. The third area was terrorism, about which Trump spoke very openly on how the US is trying to put pressure on Pakistan to curb terrorism.
Trump praised India’s role as the leader in the Indo-Pacific region. Despite all the doubts on President Trump, he has shown great continuity in terms of policy towards India. This is also a reminder of what former US president Barack Obama had said in 2017 — India-US partnership could become the “defining” partnership of the 21st century. However, we need to wait until the negotiations on Tuesday and see the outcomes of that.
Trump’s comments had the mark of a finely researched speech. His speechwriters clearly did their homework
Deputy Director, Asia Program and Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center
After much anticipation, the much-ballyhooed ‘Namaste Trump’ spectacle has come and gone. Here’s what stood out the most in US President Donald Trump’s speech.
Values still matter in US-India relations: It’s quite clear that shared interests are what bind US-India ties the most. China and Islamist terrorism are arguably the two greatest foreign policy concerns for New Delhi and Washington alike. But Trump’s speech also emphasised the other bilateral pillar — shared values — with ample references to shared democratic traditions.
Good speechwriters: Trump focused extensively on India’s political history and invoked its cultural icons. His comments had the mark of a finely researched speech. Trump’s speechwriters clearly did their homework — and they understood their boss’ audience. In this regard, Trump’s speech was reminiscent of PM Narendra Modi’s well-received address to a joint session of the US Congress in 2016, which was steeped in a deep awareness of US political and cultural tradition.
A surprising lack of surprises: With the unpredictable Trump, one never knows what to expect. But there were no awkward asides or other gaffes. The only blemish was a positive — albeit prepared — reference to Pakistan, which predictably did not go down well. Overall, it was a completely scripted and statesmanlike speech.
President Trump’s speech was expected to please Indian audience and it exceeded expectations in many ways
Executive council member, VIF and former foreign secretary
US President Donald Trump’s speech in Ahmedabad was expected to please the Indian audience, though it went beyond expectations in some ways. First, his praise for PM Narendra Modi was lavish, which is important in the context of the increasing political polarisation in India and the opposition accusing the Prime Minister of divisive politics by targeting Muslims through the CAA and NRC. A US official had alerted in advance briefings that India will be encouraged by Trump in public and in private to uphold India’s democratic traditions and institutions. Trump, on the contrary, lauded India’s democracy generously.
Two, Trump noted the impressive progress India has made on many fronts, including economic growth, poverty eradication and social schemes. He added that all these have been achieved in a democratic, peaceful manner as a free society — and, indirectly referring to China — without intimidation and aggression.
Three, India and the US were committed, he said, to counter radical Islamic terrorism of which both have been victims, stating that every nation has a right to secure and control its border. While talking about his administration deliberating with Pakistan to crack down on terrorism, he made a positive reference to it, with the impending Pakistan-supported peace deal with the Taliban in view.
It is clear from Trump speech that even though US will be loyal to India, its tone towards Pakistan has changed
Former Indian ambassador to the US
First, it focused positively on India’s strengths – its democracy, diversity, religious plurality, economic progress, innovation in science, technology, space and cultural strength including the film industry.
Second, President Trump mentioned that the US will be a loyal friend to India. It is important because as India-US relationship strengthens, it is asked whether the US can be seen as a reliable partner. In the past, at times, the US has been supportive and at times, its support has been less than expected because of its own priority and compulsions.
Third, Trump also spoke about counter-terrorism cooperation. As the US is working towards an agreement with the Taliban by month-end, and looking to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the impact it will have on the new emerging government’s structure, and its ability to deal with terrorism, would need to be a subject of an intense dialogue between India and the US. About Pakistan, the tone of the US has really changed. In 2017 and 2018, Trump was very critical of Pakistan. Now he is suggesting that Pakistan is cooperating and has called for reduction of tension in South Asia.
There was a reiteration of India-US cooperation in the context of the Indo-Pacific and attempt to draw attention to challenges from authoritarian governments.
By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint