US President Donald Trump is likely to visit India next month on his first tour to the country since he took office over three years ago. A presidential visit has long been on the card with an invitation pending from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The visit comes over domestic trouble for the US president as an impeachment trial is impending and could start as early as next week. The trial is likely to be swift and could even be wrapped up within two weeks. Trump has torched relations with a host of countries in Europe, Middle East and elsewhere. He may certainly be looking to salvage foreign policy relations in the last year of his presidential term.
India invited Trump to its Republic Day parade last year but he didn’t attend due to scheduling issues and the pollution in New Delhi. Trump has visited India before on business trips and has investments there. Trump will become the fifth US president to visit India since 2000. Obama visited India twice during his tenure but didn’t come to Pakistan during his eight year term.
India might ponder on how to appease an increasingly aggressive president who believes that the world is ripping off the US. India is ramping up purchases of American energy as imports have nearly doubled, and other goods including purchases of civilian and military aircraft. A trade deal with India is still in the works after months of negotiations and could give impetus to the presidential visit.
Trump is likely to ignore the political upheaval and mayhem in India caused by Modi’s divisive policies. India is battling protest demonstrations over the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act as dissent grows over threats to the constitution. India also imposed a communication blockade in Kashmir since last August causing immense losses. The Indian economy is also expected to decline this year. These issues are unlikely to come under discussion and could in fact boost Modi’s confidence in his fascist policies.
The Indian government would have to consider what it could offer the Indian public over the president’s visit. Trump and Modi share a strong relationship which was witnessed last year when both leaders endorsed each other at a rally in Houston in front of a large Indian diaspora. India is one of the few countries having confidence in Trump’s leadership.
Pakistan will have to keep a close watch on Trump’s visit to India. It should trigger diplomatic channels ensuring that contentious issues such as Kashmir are discussed. Perhaps Trump could consider visiting Pakistan to bolster ties amid the Afghan peace process.