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Posted at: Jun 16, 2017, 12:06 AM; last updated: Jun 16, 2017, 12:06 AM (IST)

Modi in USA

Low pecking order but high hopes
Modi in USA
In the hierarchical approach to the world order, the scheduling of appointments with the new monarch gives a fair idea about the pecking arrangement. PM Narendra Modi gets to meet US President Donald Trump towards this month end. India’s adversary China and budding allies Japan and Israel have already been given the full treatment early on: Xi Jinping spent two days at the Trump “Winter White House”, Shinzo Abe played golf while Benjamin Netanyahu arrived when the paint was wet on the new nameplates in Washington DC. In contrast, Modi gets to meet Trump after several middle-level Asian leaders — of Vietnam, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey — have called on the US President and some others met him in Riyadh. Consider Trump’s Saudi Arabia visit, and a fair idea emerges about India's place in the new US administration’s worldview.

Generally there are two items in a high-voltage diplomatic tete-a-tete: inventive photo ops and the agenda on the table. It will be worth watching if Modi’s protocol managers are resourceful enough to conjure a better photo opportunity than the ones afforded to Abe and Xi. After all, despite slowly getting hyphenated with its restive neighbours (US Defence Secretary Mattis was the latest to link Afghanistan with Indo-Pak tensions), visuals of Trump-Modi bantering may be necessary to subdue sceptics about India’s meandering and event-based foreign policy.

In Washington, Modi should come into his own when he sits across the table for discussions with Trump as both are firm believers in transactional relationships — but their national priorities are bound to clash. India needs the US to overcome its technological backwardness in cutting-edge sectors with Make-in-India as well as maintain its annual intake of Indian software engineers. The US, on the other hand, is on the lookout for countries that can take up policing on its behalf on distant shores and be a readymade market for “America First” products. PM Modi’s predecessor had pulled off the nuclear deal. Modi, the self-acknowledged deal-maker, will be on test as he seeks to break down Trump’s resistance to visas and Make-in-India.

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