As the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Pentagon Chief James Mattis will conclude various bilateral agreements with India during their upcoming visit to New Delhi in September, the US President Donald Trump’s tendency to mock Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s accent in English has landed both the delegates into a sea of challenges.
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There have always been irritants in relations between India and the United States. But few have been as baffling to New Delhi or left as bitter a taste, as a video of the US President imitating Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone viral in New Delhi. As per media reports, Trump often mimics his Indian counterpart in internal discussions.
“There’s a general understanding here that Modi is not sure he can do business with Trump,” said Suhasini Haidar, foreign affairs editor of The Hindu. “India is just now coming to terms with the idea that Trump will not treat India with the same kind of benevolence that previous presidents have,” she added.
This is a diplomatic headache that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will defy when he arrives in the Indian capital on Wednesday with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Tiptoeing around the president’s carelessness is one in a suddenly long list of challenges to a relationship that, according to senior State Department officials, Pompeo would very much like to preserve — and even improve.
Improving ties with the United States was Modi’s signature foreign policy effort when he came to power in 2014. But with New Delhi suddenly uncertain about Washington, the Prime Minister of India has in recent weeks sought to fix relation with Moscow, and with Beijing as a hedge.
For decades, the United States hoped that India would become an economic and military counterweight to a growing China. Rex W. Tillerson, the Trump administration’s first secretary of state, described his outreach to India as among the most vital initiatives of his tenure, giving a gushing speech in October about the countless reasons the two countries were natural partners.
Under Mattis, the Pentagon has been equally committed to the partnership. It has even renamed its Hawaii-based American combatant command that oversees the Pacific region as the Indo-Pacific Command as a lure for India to increase its partnership with the United States and other allied forces.