12:09 GMT +316 June 2019
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    U.S. President Donald Trump (R) arrives for a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017

    India, US Avoid Discussing Key Contentious Issues

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    Uncertainty over the H-1B visa, climate change and trade-related issues between India and the US will continue for now, as the recent meet between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump failed to tackle these issues in their meeting at the White House on Monday.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — Experts said India will have to tread cautiously in its dealings with Trump whose policy positions on various issues keep shifting. The ties between India and the US under President Trump have turned "transactional" with the incumbent administration seeking immediate deals to further his "America First" campaign.

    Since taking over the presidency, most of Trump's policy decisions — whether pulling out the US from the Trans-Atlantic Trade Partnership, or pushing changes to H-1B visa for IT workers, or more recently, pulling out from the 2015 Paris climate change accord, — sowed seeds of uncertainty in New Delhi.

    In the case of the Paris climate deal, Trump specifically named India along with China getting undue benefits at the cost of the US economy. Not surprisingly, therefore, the expectation from the first Modi-Trump meet was not very high.

    In fact, there were repeated assertions from Indian ministers that contentious issues, especially the H-1B visa will be raised with President Trump.

    "I would like to assure the country that we are in touch with the members of the US Congress and the administration on this matter. When the prime minister travels there [later this month], this is one of the issues that he is planning to raise," Sushma Swaraj had said as reported by Sputnik.

    The IT sector has been one of the positive cases in India-US relations, but there was no mention of the H-1B visa issue in the joint statement issued after the Modi-Trump meeting.

    On trade and economic issues, which have seen major differences, the statement said that both India and the US are "resolved to pursue increased commercial engagement in a manner that advances the principles of free and fair trade".

    While the Indian side avoided contentious issues, Trump minced no words in saying that trading relationship should be "fair and reciprocal." Last year, the US trade deficit with India neared $31 billion.

    "It is important that barriers be removed to the export of US goods into your markets and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country," he said, during the two leaders' press briefing.

    Experts said a better relationship between the US and India now hinges on what New Delhi can do for Americans, as it still depends on the whims and fancies of President Trump.

    "Unless President Trump surprises us (Indians) with a tweet posted at night, it is safe to say this was a very conventional sort of meeting between the two leaders. Both leaders discovered synergies and focused on non-contentious aspects… the more contentious issues like H-1B visa, climate change, trade restrictions and the complaint of American companies on intellectual property rights, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector remain. They have not been discussed; it doesn't mean they are no longer present. President Trump clearly said he wants more access for American companies in a fair manner," Ashok Malik, noted strategic affairs expert, told a panel discussion on CNN-News18.

    Dealing with the US under Trump will be an entirely different ball game for India in the next three years.

    "The politics in the US has changed and will remain like that for the next three years with President Trump in the White House. He firmly believes in and is persuading transactional ties with everyone, and India is no different. Trump will want to show how business with India is benefitting the US and his constituency. It will be interesting to see the trajectory to India-US ties under him," Harsh V. Pant, Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, and Professor of International Relations at King's College, London, told Sputnik.

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    H-1B, Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, United States, India
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