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US President Donald Trump embarks on his first official visit to India, in the final year of his presidency. This is the eighth visit by a sitting US President and the ninth meeting between Modi and Trump. Four of those meetings took place last year, including the ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Texas. This visit comes at a time of great contradictions. India and the US are strategic partners and Washington is New Delhi’s second largest arms supplier. The two sides, however, are in the midst of a trade war. Trump has targeted the trade deficit with India, looking to prise open the Indian market. The Modi government has retaliated with tariffs. Though a new trade deal has so far eluded both sides, that reality is likely to be overshadowed by the two leaders addressing a ‘Namaste Trump’ rally in the world’s largest cricket stadium-at Motera, Ahmedabad.

TRUMP’S TRAVELS

ACROSS THE POND

Indians in the US

  • There were 1.78 million Indians in the United States in 2010. By 2018, that number had risen to 2.65 million-a 49 per cent increase
  • As of July 1, 2018, Indians constituted 5.9 per cent of the foreign-born population in the US but comprised less than 1 per cent of the total

The Indian-American vote

  • According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 84 per cent of Indian-Americans voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 14 per cent for Donald Trump. According to the Asian American Voter Survey, Trump had an approval rating of 28 per cent among Indian-Americans registered to vote in 2018

What they want

  • Jobs. Many Indian-Americans depend on the H-1B visa program, which allows 85,000 foreigners to go to the US to work in ‘specialty occupations’. Indian natives accounted for 75 per cent of approved H-1B applications in 2017, according to the US Department of Homeland Security

THE PoTUS

  • Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in New York, the fourth of five children
  • He was educated at New York Military Academy and then at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating from the Wharton School of Finance in 1968
  • In the 1970s and ’80s, Trump worked in real estate and in the casino business. In 2004, he began starring in a reality TV show, The Apprentice, the source of his widely recognised catch phrase: “You’re fired!”
  • In 2005, he married Melania Knauss, his third wife. He was formerly married to Ivana Winklmayr from 1977 to 1992 and Marla Maples from 1993-1996

Illustration by Siddhant Jumde

  • Trump has five children-Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric from his first marriage, Tiffany from his second and Barron from his third.
  • Trump has co-authored several books, including the bestselling The Art of the Deal (1987). An estimate by Forbes put his wealth at $3.1 billion as of September 2019
  • On June 16, 2015, Trump announced that he would be running for President of the United States. In May 2016, he was announced as the Republican candidate. On November 8, 2016, he won the American electoral college, defeating Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton-though he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million
  • Trump was sworn in to office on January 20, 2017, becoming the oldest person to become a first-term president, as well as the wealthiest

THE FLOTUS

  • Slovenian supermodel Melania Trump (née Knauss) was born on April 26, 1970
  • Melania and Donald Trump first met in 1998, at the Kit Kat Club in New York. Seven years later, she would become his third wife
  • She is only the second FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) to be born outside the US, and was the first to be naturalised, becoming a US citizen in 2006

Illustration by Siddhant Jumde

  • Like other First Ladies, she uses her office to support a social cause. Her ‘Be Best’ campaign focuses on youth welfare, advocating against cyberbullying and drug use. However, she has also been criticised for not pursuing this campaign at the White House-her husband, Donald, has frequently been accused of bullying behaviour online
  • She speaks six languages: Slovenian, French, Serbian, German, Italian and English

THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE

INDIA-US KEY ISSUES

Trade Matters

  • In the past two years, with India buying more crude oil and LNG from the US, the trade gap of $22 billion in 2016-17 has fallen to about $17 billion in the current fiscal
  • India exports $52.4 billion of goods to the US, about 16 per cent of its total exports. American goods comprise 6.9 per cent of India’s imports, at around $35.5 billion. Further, Indian travellers spend $16 billion in the US. New Delhi has asked for this expenditure to be considered part of tourism exports
  • On various fronts, New Delhi has also found itself caught in the crossfire between Washington and Beijing. This includes Washington’s stance at the World Trade Organization’s Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference, refusing to allow differential tariffs to both India and China. This was followed by the unilateral withdrawal of the Generalized System of Preferences from India and other countries. New Delhi was a major beneficiary of this system in 2017, with $5.7 billion worth of exports to the US given duty-free status

Flashpoints

  • On February 11, India classified certain medical products for humans-like stents and knee implants-as ‘essential commodities’, giving it the right to impose price caps. This cut into US medical manufacturers’ business, causing friction
  • In June 2019, India retaliated to the termination of its GSP rights by increasing tariffs on 28 US products, including walnuts, grams, pulses and shrimp
  • India has been pushing FDI-funded e-commerce companies to abandon ‘inventory-based’ business models, with financial consequences for US e-tail titans Amazon and Walmart (via Flipkart)
  • In April 2018, the RBI issued a circular instructing payment system providers to store all payment-related data only in India. Mastercard and Visa were the worst impacted. India is also pushing parallel payment gateway Rupay, further squeezing US business
  • India has refused a US demand to allow the import of dairy products from animals that have been fed ‘animal-derived blood meal’, on religious/ cultural grounds. This disqualifies many US dairy products
  • India was forced to back out of commitments made to Iranian oil companies after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran. Alternative options-like oil from Saudi Arabia-are more expensive

DEFENCE

  • The US is India’s second largest defence supplier. India’s military conducts more exercises with it than with any other country
  • Since 2016, India has been designated a ‘major US defense partner’, giving it access to classified US technology
  • Two agreements to increase inter-operation capability-the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement have been signed. A third, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, is yet to be signed
  • India conducts more military exercises with the United States than it does with any other country
  • India and the US held their first tri-services exercise-codenamed ‘Tiger Triumph’-in 2019
  • Deals worth $15 billion were concluded from 2006-2019. Deals for planes, drones, missiles, gunships and naval guns worth $10 billion are currently in the pipeline

TIES THAT BIND

  • Indo-American defence cooperation has come a long way in the past three decades-from being in opposite camps during the Cold War to close strategic partners with multiple areas of convergence
  • There are more than 50 bilateral dialogue mechanisms between India and the United States
  • A hotline was established in 2016, connecting the Indian Prime Minister’s Office and the US White House
  • India holds annual ‘two plus two’ meetings between its foreign and defence ministers and their American counterparts. The US is only the second country with which India has such a dialogue
  • Strategic and commercial dialogue meetings have been held at the foreign minister and minister of state level between India and the US
  • In 2018, the US gave India its ‘strategic trade authorization’ designation. India is the third Asian country to receive it after Japan and South Korea

MEETINGS OF THE MINDS

June 26, 2017: White House, Washington D.C.: Modi and Trump’s first meeting. India and US release a statement on shared values. India objects to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with US support

November 13, 2017: ASEAN summit, Manila: Modi and Trump discuss geostrategic interests in the Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral and free trade

December 1, 2018: G-20 Summit, Buenos Aires: Modi participates in the first trilateral meeting with Japanese premier Shinzo Abe and Trump

June 28, 2019: G-20 Summit, Osaka: Trump and Modi discuss 5G, defence and trade. Before the meeting, Trump demands India withdraw ‘unacceptably high tariffs’

August 26, 2019: G-7 Summit, Biarritz, France: Trump says he ‘discussed Kashmir’ with Modi, offers to mediate with Pakistan. India rejects the offer

September 22, 2019: “Howdy, Modi!”, Texas: Trump and Modi address a crowd of 50,000 Indian-Americans. Modi makes a strong pitch against terrorism. Trump describes it as “aggressive” but very well received

September 24, 2019: UN General Assembly, New York: Trump and Modi meet on the sidelines of the UNGA. Trump says Modi will take care of radical Islamic terrorism

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