Trump’s Visit Reaffirms US-India Relations

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President Trump’s two day trip to India has helped to emphasize the importance of the US-Indian relationship to the world. Even though there are still some obstacles remaining, namely in trade matters, the United States and India are moving closer on many fronts. Defense is certainly one of them. While with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump announced the two countries would sign a $3 Billion defense deal which will provide India with American helicopters and other military equipment. Trump was quite pleased when he was welcomed by 100,000 people at an Ahmedabad cricket stadium in a rally-type of event dubbed “Namaste Trump.” As relations with him and Modi become closer, the relationship between the nations they lead becomes more critical to both as we move deeper into the 21st Century.

The US considers India to be a natural counter-weight to China. As China has enjoyed a meteoric rise in economic, and military power this century, India’s own accomplishments in these areas have been equally impressive. Politically and religiously the two countries are polar opposites. There is no democracy in China per se. The communist party maintains control, and leaders are not selected by the citizens they serve. India bills itself as the most populous democracy in the world where the people choose their national, regional, and local leaders. Hinduism is the majority religion in India with Islam the largest minority. In China there is no official religion although the government does recognize a select number, namely Buddhism. China has the largest population in the world and India has the second largest. The two nations are geopolitical rivals striving for influence and power across the continent and the world. They share a common border which has seen its fair share of tension, and skirmishes. In 1962 a dispute over the sovereignty of the Aksai Chin region led to a full-fledged war between India and China. The border area remains a thorn in the sides of both nations. Needless to say, the Sino-Indian rivalry remains alive and well.

The United States is determined to continue to grow its relations with India and strengthen ties. This policy has been pursued by successive administrations going back to President Carter, with varying results. Given the track US-Indian relations appear to on now, it would seem that the Trump Administration is on the right track.

Kashmir Crisis Update: 28 February, 2019

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Pakistan has announced its intent to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot on Friday. Prime Minister Imran Khan labeled the move a ‘gesture of peace.’ Pakistan’s intention had been to tie the pilot’s release to a de-escalation of tensions. India, however, did not take the bait. Officials in New Delhi made it clear it would not negotiate for the pilot’s release or allow him to be used as a bargaining chip. De-escalation, according to India, is the responsibility of Pakistan. The hope around the world is that, despite India’s position, the release of its pilot will in fact help to stabilize the situation. For the moment though, the region remains tense. India’s armed forces are on a high alert, and there are indications that Pakistan has increased the readiness levels of its services.

 

Pakistani airspace will reopen to commercial air traffic at 6 PM local time (1300 Zulu) on Friday. The airspace has been closed since Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight following an Indian airstrike on a suspected terrorist camp on the Pakistani side of the LoC, and a subsequent Pakistani retaliatory strike on targets on the Indian side.

 

Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) at Salamabad Uri was suspended for the second consecutive day on Thursday. Trade in the area normally takes place between Tuesday and Friday. There has been no determination if it will resume tomorrow.

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to the leaders of Pakistan and India today and is hopeful the high tension between the two countries will come down soon. Even so, there is concern in the White House, and Pentagon that the tensions could still lead to a major confrontation between the nuclear-armed rivals.

 

Monday 5 September, 2016 Update: G20 Summit

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In the weeks leading up to the G20 summit in Hangzhou China expectations remained cynically low for the two-day gathering. Although the gathering is an economic conference, it was clear that geopolitical issues would dominate talks. Tensions in the South China Sea, further North Korean missile tests, no agreement between the US and Russia on Syria, and increasing challenges to globalism and free trade had all played a part in making the prospects for a productive summit dim.

As expected, geopolitics took center stage. In his speech, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that one South Asia nation is responsible for spreading terrorism across the region. His comments leave little to the imagination regarding what nation-state he was referring to and the fact that the comments were made in Hangzhou make it obvious that Modi is hoping China can restrain the South Asia nation in question, which is an ally and beneficiary of the People’s Republic.

The tensions between the US and China came to the forefront at the start of the summit when incidents between US and Chinese officials took place at the airport. In one encounter, a White House press aide was instructing foreign reporters on where to stand as President Obama deplaned from Air Force One when a Chinese official confronted the aide. “This is our country. This is our airport,” the official declared angrily. Shortly after this, the same official confronted national security adviser Susan Rice, prompting the Secret Service to intervene.

When it was time to conduct business, Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Obama he opposes deployments of THAAD in South Korea and foreign intervention in the name of human rights. He called on the US to take a ‘constructive’ position in the South China Sea, help curb Taiwanese independence desires, and end support for Tibetan independence. So it appears that despite all of the areas where China and the US have forged cooperation, there remain a number of issues where the two sides are quite far apart.

Presidents Obama and Putin addressed a number of hot-button issues between the US and Russia when the two leaders took some time away from the summit to hold a meeting. Syria was the main topic with much of the discussion devoted to it. A US-Russia ceasefire and agreement on Syria has proven to be quite elusive and no progress was made in Hangzhou. However, Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will continue talks later this week. The primary roadblock to a ceasefire agreement is the existence of ‘Gaps of Trust’ between the US and Russian governments. Put simply, there is a multitude of reasons for either side to distrust the words, intentions and actions of the other, and little reason to trust. Putin and Obama have both hinted that hope is not lost and a new agreement could be coming within days.

The last notable highlight of the G20 Summit was North Korea’s decision to launch three ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on the final day. The move was likely an attempt to get the attention of world leaders at the summit and remind them that North Korea is still a force to be reckoned with in Asia.