US & India announce `elevated' tie-up

With the threat of an economically and militarily assertive China looming before the US and India, American President Donald Trump chose India's Independence Day to signal that Washington has New Delhi's back by announcing that the two countries “will elevate their strategic consultations“.

The US president called PM Narendra Modi ostensibly to congratulate Indians on the country's I-Day celebration. But a White House readout on the call went far beyond the pleasantries, disclosing that “the leaders resolved to enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue that will elevate their strategic consultations“.

The readout did not elaborate on the principals or the subject of the 2-by-2 dialogue, but the two countries have a long overdue annual strategic dialogue mechanism instituted by previous administrations.

The dialogue typically involves high cabinet officials from both sides, including the secretary of state and commerce secretary from the US and their Indian counterparts.

Although the White House statement did not refer explicitly to China, much less the Doklam issue, the reference to enhancing peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region appears to be shot across Beijing's bow, and constitutes a continuation of the recognition by the Obama administration of India's stakes in the region.

The White House statement also came hours after Trump announced a review of China's trade prac tices, dialing down on his threat to initiate strong actions that could lead to a trade war in which both sides will suffer.

Notably, there was no Trump phone call to any Pakistani leader on the occasion of that country's IDay, confirming the impression that Washington has long de-hyphenated the two countries. Secretary Rex Tillerson recently engaged with Islamabad with prospects of some bilateral visits involving him and Pakistan's new foreign minister K M Asif.

Trump also sought to ramp up business ties with India specifically talking up the Global Entrepreneur Summit in Hyderabad, India, this coming November for which he has detailed his daughter Ivanka Trump to attend.

“As the leaders of two of the world's largest and fastest-growing major economies, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi looked forward to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this November. President Trump has asked Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump to lead the United States summit delegation,“ the White House readout noted.

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