India and the US on Monday reiterated their commitment to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism even as the two sides agreed to boost economic cooperation following the first ever meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump.
At a closely watched first meeting between the two, Trump and Modi appeared to get along well. Modi pulled in Trump for a bear hug on the stage as the cameras rolled in the Rose Garden.
“Fighting against terrorism and destroying the hideouts of the terrorists will be an important part of our mutual cooperation,” Modi said while jointly addressing the media with Trump following delegation-level talks. “We will enhance the intelligence exchange to boost coordination to address our common concerns over terrorism and will deepen our policy coordination accordingly,” he said.
Modi added that both the nations had agreed to increase their cooperation to tackle global challenges like increasing radicalisation, extremism and terrorism. His comments came hours after the US on Monday declared the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist.
Modi said that India was committed to peace in Afghanistan and rebuilding that country was a top priority.
“India and US are working together to bring stability and peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
He also said that he and Trump agreed to work closely on boosting maritime trade and cooperation.
Modi said that the best of India’s benefits lay in a strong and successful America.
Stating that he and Trump held talks on a wide range of issues pertaining to the India-USA relationship, he said: “We consider America a valued partner in our flagship programmes.”
The Prime Minister said that trade, commerce and investment were key areas of cooperation between the two sides. “Technology, innovation and knowledge economy are also areas we are actively looking at,” he said. “Increasing productivity, job creation and breakthrough technologies will be the driving force of our ties.”
Modi also invited Trump to visit India along with his family.
On his part, Trump said that both India and the US have been struck by the evils of terrorism, “and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them.”
“We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” he said. “Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces. And next month, they will join together with the Japanese Navy to take place in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean.”
The President told Modi that he “always had a deep admiration for your country and for its people, and a profound appreciation for your rich culture, heritage and traditions”.
“This summer, India will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its independence, and on behalf of the United States, I want to congratulate the Indian people on this magnificent milestone in the life of your very, very incredible nation,” he said. “During my campaign, I pledged that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House. And that is now exactly what you have—a true friend.”
Trump said that he looked forward to working with Modi to create jobs in both countries, to grow both economies, and to create a trading relationship that was fair and reciprocal. “It is important that barriers be removed to the export of US goods into your markets, and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country,” he stated.
He said that the US was looking forward to exporting more energy to India as its economy grew, “including major long-term contracts to purchase American natural gas, which are right now being negotiated, and we will sign them”.
Monday’s talks were preceded by a one-on-one meeting between Modi and Trump in the Oval Office. “President Trump has welcomed me with immense warmth. I thank him for the welcome. This is an honour for the 1.25 billion people of India,” Modi told the media ahead of the meeting.
Trump said it was “a great honour” to host Modi “who has been such a great PM”.
“You have done a great job economically and you are doing well in so many ways. I would like to congratulate you,” the US President said.
Modi was welcomed by Trump and his wife Melania at the White House and was accorded a red carpet welcome. Both leaders warmly shook hands and smiled in what was their first ever meeting.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, Modi had spoken to Trump thrice over the phone after the latter assumed office in January this year.
Earlier in the day, US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid courtesy calls to Modi here.
As they met, a Pentagon agency said the US State Department has approved the possible sale to India of a Boeing C-17 transport aircraft with an estimated cost of $366 million.
The United States also has offered to sell a naval variant of the Predator drone made by US defence contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the White House said in a statement, a deal that would be worth more than $2 billion.
The United States has become the leading supplier of defence equipment to India, signing contracts worth more than $15 billion since 2008.
On Monday evening, Trump and Modi had a working dinner, the first time Trump has played host to a foreign dignitary at a White House dinner.
Trump administration officials have pointed to both leaders’ impact on social media—each has more than 30 million Twitter followers—as proof they are cut from the same cloth.
“If the chemistry is good, everything else gets sorted,” said an Indian official. “The only way is up. How much up we go depends on the leaders. If they click, we go up higher.”