Trump’s February 24-25 India visit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was all about achieving a trade deal favorable to US corporate interests.
It also aimed to further US/India ties at the expense of China, Russia, Iran, and other US adversaries.
Ahead of his visit, Trump said “we can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on (sic).”
“We’re doing a very big trade deal with India. We’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big trade deal with India (sic).”
“We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot.”
Concluding a trade deal with India remains elusive. According to the Hindustan Times, Modi values US technology and plans to significantly increase purchases of US oil to reduce an over-reliance on Middle East imports.
An unnamed Modi official said “(w)e are in talks with the US government and private oil firms as petroleum is an unregulated business in that country.”
“We expect good rates and better terms from American firms that would compensate for our transportation costs. In return, we can offer them an assured market.”
India is heavily dependent on imports to meet its energy needs, the International Energy Agency explained.
Last month, the Financial Express reported that energy security would be a top priority for Modi when he and Trump meet.
India currently imports around $4 billion worth of US oil and liquified natural gas.
Accompanying Trump on his visit were Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, and others in his delegation.
It comes at a time of widespread opposition to Modi’s December 2019 Citizenship Act that breaches international laws, conventions, and treaties to which India is a signatory, as well as the country’s Constitution — by undermining equality for all the country’s citizens, notably discriminating against around 200 million minority Muslims.
Weeks of protests against the measure continue, Trump and his delegation kept from areas where it’s ongoing.
Both countries value their strategic political, economic, and military relations.
India also maintains close ties to Russia. Its relations with China are mixed, at times tense, notably because of unresolved border disputes in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh bordering Tibet.
At the same time, a Border Defense Cooperation Agreement has prevented confrontation between both countries.
According to the Hindu.com, Indian relations with China benefit from “high-level exchanges” despite unresolved tensions.
World’s apart differences between Beijing and Washington pushed President Xi Jinping to improve relations with New Delhi.
Leadership of both countries prefers cooperative relations over adversarial ones by joint involvement in international projects, among other initiatives.
During Trump’s visit, a $2.6 billion deal for India to buy 24 Lockheed Martin Seahawk helicopters was signed.
The deal increases India’s purchase of US weapons to around $20 billion. Modi also reportedly agreed on a deal for Westinghouse to build six nuclear reactors in the country.
While valuing strong relations with the US, Modi wants ties to Russia maintained, as well as balanced relations with neighboring China, both countries sharing a 2,500 mile common border.
According to China Institute of International Studies analyst Lan Jianxue, Trump “hopes to reach an agreement with India on the Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China as well” as other objectives of his visit, notably trade.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative explained that India is the 9th largest US trade partner in goods and services, Indian exports exceeding US imports by around $25 billion.
A major economic difference between both countries is Trump’s America First agenda v. Modi’s Make in India.
Other bilateral issues include US v. Indian relations with Russia, China, Iran, and the unsettled situation in Kashmir.
Chinese national security strategist Qian Feng believes “(t)he US and India are likely to sign moderate agreements in the fields of arms trade, counter-terrorism, energy and technology, rather than any big deals.”
Indian agricultural and other tariffs are obstacles to greater trade with the US.
In 2019, the Trump regime ended India’s preferential trade status. Modi retaliated by imposing 120% tariffs on 28 US products.
He wants Trump to restore India’s preferential trade status with the US. DJT wants increased Indian imports of US products, along with getting Modi to go along with his regime’s anti-Sino/Russia Indo/Pacific strategy.
Trade talks to continue following Trump’s visit will likely result in both leaders getting some of what they seek short of a big deal for either side. Modi/Trump talks concluded this way.
It’s to Modi’s advantage to maintain cooperative relations with all India’s strategic allies, China and Russia very much included.