PM Modi not accompanying President Trump to Agra, Defence, security, energy tie ups likely

New Delhi: After the spectacular and grand welcome at Ahmedabad on February 24, the visiting U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania are scheduled to head for Agra to see the Taj Mahal but they will not be accompanied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their visit to Agra.
“We have seen media reports regarding Prime Minister Modi’s presence in Agra in connection with the visit of President Trump. The visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra by the US President and the First Lady will afford them the opportunity to view the historical monument suitably. Therefore, no official engagements or presence of senior dignitaries from the Indian side is envisaged there,” sources in the government said here on Saturday.
“PM Modi will be with President Trump in Ahmedabad, where a public reception will be accorded to President Trump and the US First Lady on February 24, and in the Delhi leg of the visit where official engagements are envisaged on February 25,” the sources said.
Mr. Trump, his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner will be accomapnied by a high-level official delegation of top U.S. functioanries during their two-day visit to India beginning Monday. It will be the first stand alone visit to India by a U.S. President.
In a briefing in Washington on Friday, a senior administration official said the President would be visiting India as a demonstration of the strong and enduring ties between the two countries which are based on shared democratic traditions, common strategic and economic interests and enduring bonds between the people.
The official said the visit will focus on several key areas — building up on economic and energy ties. The two way trade in goods and services has exceeded $142 billion in 2018 and there was much more room to grow.
The Strategic Energy Partnership that was launched by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi in 2017 has paid major dividends and improved energy security. It’s encouraged the production of more energy. And it’s facilitated Indian imports of U.S. crude oil, LNG, and coal. India is the fifth-largest economy in the world, has huge energy needs. And the U.S. is ready to help India meet those needs. Indeed, in 2016, U.S. energy exports to India have grown 500 percent to nearly $7 billion, the senior administration official said.

The U.S. side will also focus on defense and security cooperation to both fight terrorism and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. “The U.S. wants an India that is strong, with a capable military that supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. Indeed, India is a pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy, and we continue to work together to promote this vision of a free and open international system based on market economics, good governance, freedom of the seas and skies, and respect for sovereignty,’ the official said.

The administration official said that both the countries shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific binds India and U.S. together.
“This is our shared democratic systems that place a premium on citizen-centric governments. In fact, India has a strong foundation of democracy, going back to the early days, right after independence. India is a country rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In fact, it’s the birthplace of four major world religions. Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritize being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law,’ the official said.

Responding to a question, the official said that President Trump will talk about “our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private he will raise the religious freedom issue.’
On trade ties, the official noted that a number of announcements have come from India in the past several weeks. The official said that recent announcements on Make in India have made the protectionism concerns in India even greater, adding that there are a number of significant commercial deals, which are of great significance that will be announced in a number of key sectors.
The official said that President Trump will favour a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences.
“We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that. But I think the President will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the line of control and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region,’ the official said.
On a question about Afghanistan, the official said the U.S. is focused on the peace process in Afghanistan where the U.S. has finalised an understanding with the Taliban to reduce violence in Afghanistan. “With regard to India, we would just encourage India, as we are all regional countries, to do whatever it can to support this peace process so that it can be successful and we can potentially end 19 years of military, diplomatic, economic engagement,’ the official added.