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February 27, 2020

How Trump’s visit to India has unfolded

Islamabad

February 27, 2020

LAHORE: Some leading American and Indian media houses have analysed at length the various aspects of sitting US President Donald Trump’s recent two-day official visit to India by discussing the gains, failures, hopes and projections.

For example, “The Washington Post” has viewed: “One outcome of the friendship between the two men: Trump declined to engage in anything that might be construed as criticism of Modi or his government, except on the issue of trade. The Modi government has made large strides in recent months toward its agenda of emphasizing Hindu primacy in India. But the fulsome praise could not mask the fact that Trump’s 36-hour visit was long on symbolism and short on substance.”

The prestigious US media house added: “A much-discussed deal to resolve longstanding differences over trade remains elusive. The prospects for partnership remain promising in the security realm, where both the United States and India are looking to counter a rising China. While in India, Trump announced that the two countries were moving ahead with a $3 billion sale of American military equipment including maritime helicopters.”

Meanwhile, from the Indian side, the “Hindustan Times” has opined: “Is Trump’s trip to India a message for Pakistan? Over the past 14 years India has hosted a US president three times, Pakistan has hosted none. President Donald Trump’s stand-alone visit further hardens the de-hyphenation of India from Pakistan in US foreign policy. The last US president to make a state visit to Pakistan was George W. Bush in early March 2006, a trip that included India. Barack Obama never went there.”

This Indian English-language daily newspaper inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1924 had more to say: “From 1959 to 2006, every US presidential South Asian visit included both India and Pakistan. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqi earlier tried to explain, saying Trump “wants an exclusive visit to Pakistan. There are multiple reasons why India and Pakistan are no longer joined at the hip as far as presidential visits are concerned. The first is the much deeper strategic relationship that has developed between India and the US, one that encompasses counterterrorism, China, and global issues such as trade and energy. The Pakistan agenda is only about terrorism.

“De-hyphenation has been a gradual but consistent evolution over the past decade and is partly a product of the growing importance of India in America’s strategic calculus,” said Jeff Smith, South Asia analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank close to the Trump administration.”

The "Hindustan Times", having a circulation of about a million copies daily, asserted: “The most dramatic manifestation of this break was George W. Bush’s civilian nuclear deal with India - a deal Pakistan asked for and did not get. Rick Rossow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said: “Recall that just a few years earlier, President Bill Clinton felt he had to roll back post-nuclear test sanctions placed against India and Pakistan simultaneously.” The second is Pakistan’s continuing role as a haven for terrorists. Smith says this has led to a “broad sense of frustration with Pakistan that cuts across both parties.” Indian diplomats say the US is extremely pro-active in the United Nations when it comes to getting terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s chief Masood Azhar listed as a terrorist or keeping Pakistan on the terrorism-related financial action task force’s grey list.”

The newspaper further commented: “The third is complicated. Trump’s offers to mediate on Kashmir worry India and enthuse Pakistan. Sources in Washington say this is motivated by Trump’s dream of winning a Nobel Peace Prize. He has offered to mediate everywhere, they note, including Northern Ireland. But Trump’s rhetoric about wanting to mediate even while talking about improving relations with India “does not help the cause of de-hyphenation,” admitted Stephen Tankel, who teaches at American University and is a terror expert. Islamabad believes facilitating a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will one day mean a visit by Air Force One. Four, there is almost zero US interest in Pakistan as an economic partner. Bilateral trade was $ 6.6 billion in 2018, versus $ 150 billion with India.”