New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to fly to Washington DC on 25 June for a 2-day trip, to “get to know” US President Donald Trump. This will be the first meeting between the two leaders.
The expectations for the meet are low, given the unstable conditions with Washington, domestic turmoil and Trump’s multiple spats with international leaders, including allies.
While pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump accused India of extracting “billions and billions” to be a part of the pact in his speech. This has led to dampening of the enthusiasm among Trump’s Indian-American supporters for the Modi visit, amid the existing differences on visa and trade issues.
The Prime Minister’s visit has been restricted as there is no confirmation on the time and the duration of the meeting with Trump, given his notorious temperament and short attention span.
Apart from the Trump meeting the PM is likely to meet US CEOs and individual lawmakers, as sources involved with the visit have divulged. However, he may forgo a big visit to Congress and the showy community event which has been a signature feature of his trips abroad.
Given the mishaps during visits by foreign leaders, the several empty positions in the State Department/Foreign Affairs set-up, made one source quip:
New Delhi is quite happy to sacrifice the thrills and frills, as long as there are no spills.
The Indian-side deliberated on the meeting intensely, given that the Modi and Trump are to meet one another at the G20 summit on 7-8 July. The multi-lateral setting would not give the two an opportunity to engage in bi-lateral discussions and such a forum could also push bi-lateral meetings into the future.
Having committed to the visit, the Indian side is having a hard time setting up a game-plan given the new White House administration’s dynamics with foreign visitors.
Most delegations so far have seen short meetings and modest outcomes, barring Xi Jinping. For India, anything short of disaster will be acceptable at this point.