“Modi-Trump hug gets tighter”, ran a headline in the Times of India.
U.S. President Donald Trump solidified the U.S.-India relationship this week during his first visit to the world’s most populous democracy which also represents Trump’s best counterweight to China in the region.
Before a crowd of more than 110,000 people who packed into the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on Monday, Trump said: “The first lady and I have just traveled 8,000 miles around the globe to deliver a message to every citizen across this nation: America loves India, America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people,”
At the joint rally with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump announced a $3 billion deal that will send state-of-the-art U.S. military helicopters to India.
“Almost everywhere he goes the president is a salesman … Not bad for a day’s work,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“To get off the airplane and go to a stadium with 110,000 happy people seems to me for most of Trump’s critics, they had to at least slow down their assumption about whether or not he’s acceptable,” Gingrich said.
The fact that Trump made time for India in an election year is a major win for the South Asian country, said Richard Rossow, senior adviser and the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
U.S.-India trade is “defying gravity” and continues to grow despite trade barriers on both sides, Rossow told CNBC.
“India is choosing — even as it puts trade barriers — to buy more from the United States in those sectors where the government of India makes the buys,” said Rossow, referring to state purchases in gas and defense sectors as examples.
Russia has long been India’s top defense supplier. But in recent years, India has inked more and more defense deals with Washington, with purchases from the U.S. reaching $17 billion since 2007, according to Reuters.
The Trump administration has also “championed the use of the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ rather than ‘Asia Pacific’ as it seeks to balance the rising power of China in the region. The Indo-Pacific strategy would place India at the center of the playbook,” the CNBC report said.
Antoher area where the U.S.-China rivalry is playing out in India in in 5G technology. The competition could also create what has now been dubbed the “splinternet” — a future in which the Internet is fragmented, governed by separate regulations and run by different services.
“The technology world, the Internet itself is beginning to fault,” said Jayant Sinha, standing committee on finance in parliament, chairman and former Indian minister for finance and aviation.
“India needs to decide which side it’s on,” Sinha told CNBC.
Meanwhile, Trump on Tuesday slammed Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying both should recuse themselves from cases involving him or his administration.
Trump’s comments, made during a press conference in India, came after Sotomayor had criticized the court’s conservative majority for granting a number of the Trump administration’s emergency stay requests.
“Perhaps most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others,” Sotomayor wrote in a sharp opinion dissenting from the court’s decision to lift an injunction on the administration’s immigrant “public charge” rule. She wrote that the court was disproportionately granting stay requests from the administration over other emergency appeals.
“She’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way, and that’s so inappropriate,” Trump said of Sotomayor.
The president also criticized Ginsburg for her comments during his 2016 campaign, when she called Trump a “faker” who “has no consistency about him” and “really has an ego” to CNN and told The New York Times that “I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president.”
Trump at the time called on Ginsburg to resign, and she later apologized.
Trump’s call for the two justices to recuse themselves comes as the Supreme Court prepares next month to tackle several issues directly involving the president. On March 31, the court will hear back-to-back oral arguments on cases that ask whether the president must comply with congressional subpoenas for his financial records and if he is immune from state criminal investigations while serving in the White House.