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Michael Kugelman on Narendra Modi Meeting with President Trump

Michael Kugelman

Michael Kugelman assesses the likely goals of President Trump and Prime Minister Modi for their meeting Monday June 26.

Michael Kugelman on Narendra Modi Meeting with President Trump

This meeting is, above all, an introduction - an opportunity for the two men to meet each other, to size each other up, and to get a sense of how each one views the other and the bilateral relationship on the whole.

Though both Trump and Modi are interested in the art of the deal, there will not be much wheeling and dealing. I imagine the conversation will be fairly casual and touch on a variety of issues, though not on very deep levels.

For Modi, the objective will be to keep this first encounter positive, and to highlight areas of shared interest like terrorism. Modi will likely also want to impress upon Trump how India's rise is in America's interest. Previous U.S. administrations were very much sold on this idea, but it's not clear what this new administration, with its very different views about U.S. policy and America's role in the world, makes of this notion.

Above all, Modi will want to ensure a warm, feel-good encounter that underscores the relationship's shared interests and emphasizes the importance of building on recent progress in bilateral relations.

It's hard to predict how Trump will approach his visit with Modi, though he certainly won't be blindly wandering into the meeting . Trump may not be incredibly savvy about foreign policy, but he does know India fairly well. He has extensive business interests in India, including branded real estate assets. His presidential campaign made explicit appeals to the Indian-American community, and he even released a campaign ad in Hindi. So he should have the proper context.

Ultimately, we should keep our expectations low in terms of substance. There won't likely be major deals or splashy announcements, though we can expect many smiles and some warm handshakes--and perhaps even a hug or two.

The chief takeaway we can expect is that both leaders come out of the meeting with a better idea of what direction the relationship could take under a new U.S. president with drastically different views of foreign policy than his predecessor.

About the Author

Michael Kugelman

Michael Kugelman

Director, South Asia Institute
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Asia Program

The Asia Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more