Trump and Modi Are Likely to Make These Big Announcements Together

Trump in India: Inside track of key issues and takeaways expected from the summit meet in Hyderabad House.

6 min read
U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave to the crowd at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, India, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.

India and the United States are expected to ink five broad Memorandums of Agreements in Delhi on Tuesday. The agreements to be signed after official restricted and delegation level talks between PM Modi and President Donald Trump in New Delhi on Tuesday are in the areas of Trade Facilitation, Intellectual Property Rights, Homeland Security, Medical Devices Safety, and Space.

An initial pact on Intellectual Property rights is ready to be inked as per sources to address long standing friction on the issue of strengthening protection of IPR.

The US official delegation includes 12 key figures—including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Acting Chief of Staff and Assistant to President Mick Mulvaney, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, and Robert Blair who is Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Telecommunication Policy.
Here’s an inside track of some key issues on the table and takeaways expected from the summit meet in Hyderabad House.

India Likely To Receive First Set Of MH 60R In A Year

“I'm pleased to announce that tomorrow our representatives will sign deals to sell over US$3 Billion, in the absolute finest state of the art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian armed forces,” announced President Trump to a packed Motera stadium, the largest cricket stadium in the world, standing next to Prime Minister Modi today.

US President Donald Trump speaks at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad.
US President Donald Trump speaks at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad.
(Photo: PTI)

Defence is the key area in official talks as Modi and Trump meet for official restricted and delegation level talks in Delhi’s Hyderabad House on Tuesday. The agreement to buy 24 MH60R multi-role helicopters at a price of around US$2.6 billion from America was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security last week ahead of Trump’s maiden visit as the 45th US President.

The Indian Navy has struggled to get these helicopters for almost a decade and a half to protect its assets in the waters from enemy submarines.

The IOR (Indian Ocean Region) witnesses presence of 40-50 ships at any given time belonging to the navies of countries including Pakistan,China.

“MH60R is one deal which will plug or fill up the void created by non-availability of the Sea-king helicopters. With this teeth have given back to the Indian Navy. We had ships without a multirole heli, making them vulnerable. An armed helicopter is most dreaded by a submarine commander,” says Captain (Retired) D K Sharma, former spokesperson of the Navy.


Fast Delivery of the Helicopters

Sources say that within an year of inking of this agreement the delivery of first set of 4-5 helicopters is likely. The helicopters are already under trial and are likely to be delivered from the USS Gerald R Ford 11th nuclear carrier fleet.

Sources add the first tranche of helicopters will strengthen the flagship INS Vikramaditya, which has a requirement of 13 multirole helicopters. Defence deals worth US$8-10 billion are also under discussions and will remain in focus during the Trump visit especially in the absence of a trade deal that remains in ‘early stages’ according to the US President even after months of negotiations.

India’s critical war-time aviation platform has gradually marked a shift from Russia to America with the induction of attack helicopters Apache, Chinooks for heavy lifts and P8Is for reconnaissance and tracking of Chinese movement in the Indian Ocean Region.

Russia remains the dominant player for ground weaponry and submarines and the S400 missile defence purchase remains on track despite the shadows of CAATSA.

India has bought military equipment worth US$18 billions from the US with almost US$9 billion worth of purchases under the Modi government itself. After LEMOA and COMCASA, the two leaders are also expected to give a final push for concluding BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) in the next meeting in March.


Ensuring US Pressure On Pakistan

“United States and India are committed to working together to stop terrorists and to fight their ideology. For this reason, since taking office my administration is working in a very positive way with Pakistan to crack down on terror organisations and militants that operate on the Pakistani border,” said Trump today in his measured remarks at Ahmedabad. Counter-Terrorism will be central to the official talks on Tuesday with an agreement on Homeland Security.

A likely MoU on Homeland Security will see the US setting up a counter terrorism centre in India.

Sources add that the MoU will also lead to formation of a JWG (Joint Working Group) to ‘strengthen cybercrime, global supply chain security, border security and trans-national crime’.

The US support in the United Nations Security Council was key to the listing of Hafiz Saeed as globally designated terrorist post 2008 Mumbai attacks and getting Masood Azhar globally banned in wake of the Pulwama attacks in 2019.

Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed
(File Photo: IANS)
The joint statement issued after the State visit will see substantial strongly worded paragraphs on terrorism and terrorists on Pakistani soil.

New Delhi will also bring to the dialogue table its concerns on Afghanistan as the US goes into a peace deal with the Taliban, facilitated by Pakistan. Trump chose to be mellowed in his criticism of Pakistan. “Our relationship with Pakistan is a very good one. Thanks to these efforts we are beginning to see signs of big progress with Pakistan and we are hopeful for reduced tensions, greater stability and the future of harmony for all of the nations of South Asia,” he said.


In formal talks , India is also likely to highlight the importance of Pakistan not being allowed to let off the grey list hook of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which has asked Islamabad to meet with all 27 compliance requirements on anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing.

Meanwhile, White House senior official sources say that Kashmir and CAA related issues are to be raised during private talks between the two top leaders even as Trump chose to lavish praise on India’s religious unity being an ‘inspiration for the world’. Trump and Modi will not accept any questions from the press in Hyderabad House after their joint press remarks, unlike during all past visits of American Presidents.


Agreeing to Agree On Trade; Focus On Energy Deals

A trade deal remains elusive even months after negotiations between Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and his feisty opponent and tough taskmaster US Trade Representative Lighthizer. Sources, however, are hoping that PM Modi will charm President Trump to agree to a mutually win-win bargain.

India is unwilling to offer level playing ground to MasterCard and Visa along with its payment mechanism of RuPay. The back and forth on trade negotiations, according to sources, has seen several last-minute items being put on the table by DC as Delhi agreed to some others. For instance, when Delhi agreed to lowering tariffs on chicken and poultry items, the Americans pushed for protein, too. India will also push for full GSP restoration and make arguments to convince Trump against the recent classification of India by his administration in the ‘developed nations’ category which takes away preferential treatments in certain areas for India.

Energy, meanwhile, will be the area where Trump will push for more Indian moolah to reduce the trade deficit favouring Delhi. India imports hydrocarbons worth US$7 billion from the US—the sixth largest exporter of crude oil—as Delhi reduced its import of Iranian crude to zero under sanctions pressure. Talks are likely on the purchase of some 10 million tonnes of high grade coal worth nearly US$2 billion from the US, which is crucial for India’s steel industry. Outside of the Government to Government agreements, ExxonMobil and Indian Oil are expected to enter into substantial agreements on LNG infrastructure and pipelines along the sidelines.


The talks will also aim at ensuring the start of nuclear commerce twelve years after the signing of the historic Civil Nuclear Deal in 2008. US energy firm Westinghouse— acquired by Canadian Brookfield Asset Management in 2018 after it filed for bankruptcy—is expected to sign pact with NPCIL for setting up six nuclear reactors in southern India. The division of responsibility for work, delivery schedules, negotiation contracts are expected to begin once the pact is signed.

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