From Howdy Modi to Namaste Trump

Namaste trump

India is hosting US President Donald Trump on 24th Feb 2020. Indian PM Narendra Modi has put on a grand event “Namaste Trump” in Ahmedabad to welcome the US President. Will this be a major event in the long history of international relations between the two democratic behemoths?

Crux of the Matter

The Modi-Trump Bromance
The middle of the 2010s decade saw Narendra Modi and Donald Trump rise as respective leaders of their nation. Both the leaders are seen as flag-bearers of right-wing populist nationalism in the wake of a globalised world. Both have had their fair share of feuds with the media and the opposition parties in their respective countries.

2010s have witnessed an increasingly assertive India at a global stage. In recent times India has stood up for her geopolitical, military and economic interests which has led to frequent tussles with USA on trade and foreign policy even as the 2 countries try to find synergy wherever possible. The pursuit of common ground has been helped by warm personal relations between Modi and Trump, a relationship which reached a public crescendo in September 2019 when PM Modi stole the show at a “rally” in Houston with Trump in attendance. At that rally Modi bestowed on Trump a reinterpretation of his 2019 election slogan in the form of “Abki Bar Trump Sarkar.”

Tethering Old Ties
Indo – US ties have been deepening for more than a decade now . The roots of the friendly ties can be found in history among common enemies or between common ideologies. However, at the time of India’s independence which coincided with the beginning of the Cold War, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s government’s stance of neutrality was a thorn in the side of USA.

Dwight Eisenhower was the first American president to visit India. And thus began the thawing of Indo-US ties. During John F. Kennedy’s Presidency, USA started considering India as its strategic ally to combat the rising Chinese.

Chinese Communists have been moving ahead the last 10 years. India has been making some progress, but if India does not succeed with her 450 million people, if she can’t make freedom work, then people around the world are going to determine, particularly in the underdeveloped world, that the only way they can develop their resources is through the Communist system.

– John F. Kenedy

US’s military support to India began between the 1962 Sino – Indian war and the 1965 India – Pakistan war. However, it nosedived during the Nixon administration, with it partnering with Pakistan even as India’s Indira Gandhi established good relations with the Soviet Union as well.

In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test, which led to a dip in Indo – US ties. India became the first nation outside the 5 permanent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members to conduct a nuclear test. Jimmy Carter’s administration enacted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act in 1978 which required countries not part of the Nonproliferation Treaty, which included India, to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect all nuclear facilities. India refused to sign the treaty and USA cut all nuclear exports to India.

India began its massive growth after the 1991 Liberalisation, Privatization, and Globalization policies. In 1998, India tested its first nuclear weapon, which culminated in President Bill Clinton imposing economic sanctions on India. From the early 21st century, India and US have been building good ties upon common interests such as curbing Islamic terrorism, environmental issues, and energy security.

Trade-shake Ties
Trade relations between India and US have been at the centre of the Indo-US ties. , Surpassing China, US recently became India’s largest trading partner with an aggregate trade (imports + exports) of $87.95 billion. Major items that America exports from India include Informations Technology (IT) services, iron and steel products, textiles, gems and precious metals, pharmaceutical products, oil, machinery, etc.

In the backdrop of the US-China trade war, India’s trade share with US is expanding, whereas, with China, it is shrinking. Ahead of Donald Trump’s visit to India, businesses have high hope of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and USA.

Nuclear Notches
US seemed to be apprehensive about India’s nuclear advancements. However, the 2006 Civil Nuclear Agreement allowed US to conduct direct civilian nuclear trade. The 2008 123 Agreement, a bilateral nuclear trade agreement, governed trade between both countries and allowed Indian firms to participate in US’s civil nuclear energy sector.

In 2019, India and US agreed to the construction of 6 American nuclear reactors in India as a part of “strengthening bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation.”

Defense – X-Factor of Indo-US Ties?
In recent years, Defense sector has become integral to the relation of India and US. In 2005, the nations signed the New Framework for US-India Defense Relationship that included cooperation in maritime security, disaster relief programs, and counterterrorism. United States was keen to conduct joint military exercise with India as a part of its agenda to wipe out growing Islamic terrorism after the 2001 9/11 attacks. In 2005, it joined the Malabar Naval exercise in India, and made it one of the largest naval exercises till that date.

Of the four agreements that the US signs with its Defense partners, General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), the first, with India was signed in 2002. In 2016, the nations signed the second agreement, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that enables both the nations to use each other’s military bases for repairs or re-supply. The third agreement – Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) – was signed in 2018 in a 2+2 Security Dialogue held at New Delhi between India’s Minister of External Affairs (MEA) Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and counterparts US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

After 2008, India’s Defense trade with US ballooned to as high as $15 billion from $1 billion. India bought top-notch military arsenal such as Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft, Globemaster, Poseidon aircraft, Apache, Chinook helicopters, Howitzer guns, etc.

Modi and US – From Pariah to Rockstar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is seen as an assertive leader on the global scale has had a bumpy ride with the US. Due to the allegations of inciting violence on religious grounds in the 2002 Godhra case, US banned the entry of Narendra Modi, then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

After Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, US-India ties have been expanding extensively on strategic, military and economic facets. Narendra Modi after his landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections has visited the US every year from 2015 to 2019.

Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US at Houston witnessed a grandeur of 50,000 people. In the ‘Howdy Modi‘ event, Narendra Modi emphasized the support of Donald Trump against fighting terrorism.

Trump’s Bharat Darshan
Day 1
11:40 AM – Arrival at Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport, Ahmedabad
12:15 PM – Visit to Sabarmati Ashram
01:05 PM – ‘Namaste Trump’ Event at Ahmedabad’s Motera Stadium
03:30 PM – Departure for Agra
04:45 PM – Arrival at Agra
05:15 PM – Visit to Taj Mahal
06:45 PM – Departure for Delhi
07:30 PM – Arrival at Delhi

Day 2
10:00 AM – Ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan
10:30 AM – Wreath laying at the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat
11:00 AM – Meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House
12:40 PM – Press Statement at Hyderabad House (Exchange of Agreements)
07:30 PM – Meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan
10:00 PM – Departure from India


Indo-US Relations – In the twenty-first century, Indian foreign policy has sought to leverage India’s strategic autonomy in order to safeguard sovereign rights and promote national interests within a multi-polar world. Under the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the United States has demonstrated accommodation to India’s core national interests and acknowledged outstanding concerns. Increase in bilateral trade & investment, co-operation on global security matters, inclusion of India in decision-making on matters of global governance (United Nations Security Council), upgraded representation in trade & investment forums (World Bank, IMF, APEC), admission into multilateral export control regimes (MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group) and support for admission in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and joint-manufacturing through technology sharing arrangements have become key milestones and a measure of speed and advancement on the path to closer US–India relations. In 2016, India and United States signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement and India was declared a Major Defense Partner of the United States. At present, India and the US share an extensive and expanding cultural, strategic, military, and economic relationship which is in the phase of implementing confidence building measures (CBM) to overcome the legacy of trust deficit – brought about by adversarial US foreign policies and multiple instances of technology denial – which have plagued the relationship over several decades. Unrealistic expectations after the conclusion of the 2008 U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement (which underestimated negative public opinion regarding the long-term viability of nuclear power generation and civil-society endorsement for contractual guarantees on safeguards and liability) has given way to pragmatic realism and refocus on areas of cooperation which enjoy favourable political and electoral consensus. More Info