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    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs President Donald Trump as Modi departs the White House, Monday, June 26, 2017, in Washington.

    Trump, Modi Expand US-India Relations as Like-Minded Pragmatists

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    The discussions in the White House this week between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi owed much of their success to the fact that both leaders had eagerly abandoned traditional policy stereotypes toward each other’s countries.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Trump made clear he was eager to expand intelligence sharing and strategic cooperation as the Indians have sought and he was silent about lecturing the Indians on their use of nuclear energy for military purposes — an issue that had concerned the previous Obama administration.

    Unlike previous US President Barack Obama, who has often expressed skepticism about global warming or climate change, Trump made no effort in his talks with Modi to press the Indians to reduce their consumption of coal to produce electric generating power.

    TRUMP-MODI MEETING PROVED MEETING OF MINDS

    Modi and Trump vowed to work closer together in a number of areas including, during a joint conference at the White House earlier this week. The two leaders said the United States and India would boost cooperation on counterterrorism efforts, intelligence sharing, and coordination on Afghanistan.

    "The Trump-Modi summit was like a Pragmatists' Ball," Ohio Northern University Assistant Professor of History Robert Waters told Sputnik. "Trump does not care that India exploded a nuclear bomb over 40 years ago."

    Modi built his national reputation on encouraging free market economic growth as chief minister in his home state of Gujarat and has never taken global warming seriously except to satisfy Obama’s passion on the subject, Waters recalled.

    "Modi is not bound by the Congress Party's traditional anti-Americanism, and Modi knows the climate agreement was symbolic shenanigans, so he doesn't care that Trump singled out the treaty's favoring of India when he pulled the United States out of Obama's executive agreement," he said.

    Shortly before Modi met Trump, the US State Department announced sanctions on Syed Salahuddin, head of the Hizbul Mujahideen guerrilla group that fights India in the province of Kashmir and that is based in Pakistan. India’s Ministry of External Affairs welcomed the US action.

    The move was criticized by Pakistan, but warmly welcomed in India; in both countries it was seen as a significant tilt by Trump away from Pakistan and towards India.

    On Monday, Trump also made an outspoken condemnation of terrorism in his joint press conference with Modi.

    His comments were seen as supporting India’s tough anti-terrorism policy in Pakistan, where more than 47,000 people have been killed in an insurrection backed by Pakistan-based h guerrillas or Mujahedeen against Indian sovereignty.

    "Trump has vowed to fight terrorism, Pakistan is a major supporter of terror, India is the primary victim of Pakistani supported terror, so Modi was happy to accept Trump's less nuanced and more direct criticism of Pakistani supported terror than Bush or Obama had ever made," Waters noted.

    Trump and Modi also agreed to step up their cooperation on supporting the government in Afghanistan against insurgent Taliban and other Islamist groups there.

    Waters pointed out that Trump’s secretary of state Rex Tillerson had already made structural changes to US policy-making on South Asia that would increase India’s influence and reduce Pakistan’s standing with US policymakers.

    "Modi also must have been happy that Secretary of State Tillerson killed State's AfPak unit and transferred the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship back to the regional bureau that includes India," he said.

    Even Trump’s tough action in reducing emigration opportunities from India into the United States played into Modi’s policies and interests, Waters suggested.

    "I think that Modi is not as upset that Trump has tightened up the H-1B visa system as people assume him to be," he said.

    India is suffering a huge brain drain, losing 125,000 of their top engineers and IT professionals to the United States every year, with thousands more overstaying their visas or becoming US citizens.

    "India is a huge country, but the drain of roughly 10 percent of its most skilled and entrepreneurial technical specialists has to be taking an economic toll," Waters pointed out.

    At the end of the meeting as they walked off into the foggy night, I suspect Trump was saying to Modi, "Narendra, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

    Inida’s long struggle against the mujahedeen guerrillas operating from Pakistan into Jammu and Kashmir had given Delhi vast experience on these groups that would be of help to US intelligence agencies seeking to uncover links between the Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamist forces in Pakistan.

    TRUMP SEEKS INDIAN INTELLIGENCE ON PAKISTAN-BASED ISLAMISTS

    The United States has longed call on Pakistan stop providing sanctuary to members of the Taliban which now controls more territory in Afghanistan than at any other time since 2001.

    "India has a lot to offer Trump since it knows loads about Pakistan and its sponsorship of the Taliban, information that the US could undoubtedly use in Afghanistan," foreign affairs analyst and political commentator Dan Lazare told Sputnik.

    Lazare noted that the warmth Trump showed to Modi appeared to counter-balance his strong support for Saudi Arabia when he visited Riyadh in May.

    "If Trump tilts toward the Saudis nowadays, then presumably he tilts toward Saudi Arabia's ally Pakistan, which means that he tilts against India.

    "But now that he's welcoming Modi to Washington, he must be pro-Inda," he said.

    Saudi Arabia has always been a strong financial and diplomatic supporter of Pakistan, which is also mainly Sunni Muslim, against both Iran and Hindu-majority India, although more than 175 million Muslims also live in India.

    Modi said on his Washington visit that India needed to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan and that he was determined to maintain close consultation and communication with the US government on the issue.

    Trump has given his generals freedom of action to decide US troop levels in Afghanistan and his secretary of defense James Mattis is engaged on a policy review to seek to roll back increasing Taliban influence there.

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    Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, India, United States
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