Describing Narendra Modi as a “great Prime Minister”, President Donald Trump discussed with him ways to push the bilateral strategic ties amid US’ strong message to Pakistan by declaring Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist.
Modi, meeting Trump for the first time, was accorded a warm welcome with the US President and the first lady Melania coming out of the White House to receive him.
At the White House portico, they exchanged pleasantries and had a brief interaction before going inside for the summit meeting.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 27, 2017
As the two leaders sat for the meetings Trump, who had recently described Modi as a “true friend”, said it was “a great honour” for him to receive the prime minister.
“He is such a great Prime Minister. I have been speaking with him and reading about him. He is doing a great job. Economically, India is doing very well and in so many other ways. I would like to congratulate him for this,” he said in brief comments.
Modi expressed gratitude to Trump and the first lady for the warm welcome extended to him, which included a ‘working dinner’, the first of its kind under the current US administration.
“It is a welcome to 125 crore people of India. For that I extend hearty thanks to the President and the first lady,” the prime minister said.
Modi said Trump has been following India’s growth march and economic progress.
He recalled that Trump had visited India in 2014 even before he became the Presidential candidate and had made “warm observations” about him, which he could never forget.
Modi became the prime minister on May 26, 2014.
Among the issues on the discussion table of Modi and Trump were counter-terrorism cooperation, defence partnership, global cooperation, trade and energy.
The tone for the first summit meeting was set by the US State Department which declared Syed Salahuddin, chief of Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, as a ‘global terrorist’, just a few hours earlier.
Ahead of the meeting between Modi and Trump, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis separately called on the prime minister and discussed ways to step up counter-terrorism cooperation and reviewed the situation in Afghanistan.
Earlier, Modi said the logic of the Indo-US strategic ties is “incontrovertible” and the two countries have an overriding interest in securing the world from terrorism, radical ideologies and non-traditional security threats.
In an uncertain global economic landscape, India and the US stand as mutually reinforcing engines of growth and innovation, the prime minister wrote in an oped in Wall Street Journal. He recalled his visit to Washington last June and his address to a joint session of the US Congress, where he said that the relationship between India and America had overcome the “hesitations of history”.
“A year later, I return to the US confident in the growing convergence between our two nations,” he said.
“This confidence stems from the strength of our shared values and the stability of our systems. Our people and institutions have steadfastly viewed democratic change as an instrument for renewal and resurgence,” he said.
Modi said the confidence in each other’s political values and a strong belief in each other’s prosperity has led to greater engagements between the two countries.
“The logic of our strategic relationship is incontrovertible,” Modi said while noting that defence was an area of mutually beneficial cooperation.
On the eve of Modi’s US visit, the Trump administration had dismissed reports that it has been ignoring India, saying President Trump realises that the country has been a “force for good” in the world and ties with it were important.
“I think that it would be wrong to say that this administration has been ignoring or not focused on India,” a senior administration official had said.
“I think that the US really appreciates India, and I think that President Trump realises that India has been a force for good in the world and that it’s a relationship that’s important. And I think that will come through in the visit on Monday,” the official said.
“Yes, this will be the first opportunity for them to sit down and have a conversation, but I think that this is still fairly early on in the administration,” the official said.
On whether the contentious H-1B visa issue would come up for discussion during the meeting, a senior administration official said it was unlikely to be raised from the US side but if raised by the Indian side, the Americans were ready for it.