Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held wide-ranging talks with US President Donald Trump and told him that both nations can rise beyond bilateral ties and work jointly for the future of Asia, reflecting their growing convergence on strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific region.
The meeting came a day after officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia held their talks to give shape to the much talked about quadrilateral alliance to keep the strategically important Indo-Pacific region free, open and inclusive. In the meeting which took place on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines, Modi said, “The cooperation between India and US can rise beyond bilateral cooperation and both countries can work for the future of Asia and the world...We are moving ahead together on many issues.”
The US has been pitching for greater Indo-US cooperation in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region where China has been ramping up its military presence. “Wherever President Trump has gone and wherever he got an opportunity to talk about India, he spoke very highly about India. He expressed optimism about India and I am assuring that the expectation the world has, the expectation the US has, India has been trying to live up to that expectation and will continue to do it,” said Modi.
Trump on his part described Modi as a friend. “It’s great to have Prime Minister Modi here. We’ve had him at the White House, and he has become a friend of ours and a great gentleman doing a fantastic job in bringing around lots of factions in India — bringing them all together. It’s a lot of good reports coming out of India. So I want to congratulate you,” Trump said according to the transcript released by the White House.
The two leaders are understood to have discussed the security scenario in the region besides several other issues of mutual interests including ways to further boost bilateral trade.
The move to set up the quadrilateral alliance comes in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. The US has been favouring a larger role for India in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region. The use of the term “Indo-Pacific” by President Trump has led to speculation that it may have something to do with Washington preparing the ground for a revival of the so-called Quadrilateral strategic alliance between US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China’s rise.
Trump on Friday praised India’s “astounding” growth after it opened up its economy and also lauded Modi, saying he has been working successfully to bring the vast country and its people together.
Speaking at a gathering of CEOs on the side-lines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang, President Trump cited India as one of the countries in the Indo-Pacific region making strides. He praised India as a sovereign democracy with a population of over 1 billion as well as the largest democracy in the world.
Soon after the meeting of their officials on Sunday, India, the US, Japan and Australia issued separate statements listing the Indo-Pacific region as the major area of the their discussions and resolved to work towards upholding a rules- based order and ensuring respect for international law in the region, seen as a message to China.