ASEAN 2017: Donald Trump and Modi resolve to have the World’s greatest militaries

“Two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries,” the United States and India resolved today in an unprecedented and eye-catching commitment, following a bilateral meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Philippines.

Supporting India’s rise as a global power has been a US objective going back to the last two (Democratic and Republican) administrations. But never before has the goal been stated in such starkly militaristic terms.

In as much as Trump has been an enthusiastic salesman for US military hardware to allies and friends, the continued reference by his administration to the ”Indo-Pacific” region, including at the ASEAN summit, suggests Washington is firmly set on helping expand India’s military capabilities vis-a-vis China for geo-strategic reasons, while helping its large military-industrial complex to Indian lolly.

A White House read-out on the Trump-Modi meeting said ”the two leaders discussed the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and India and their shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. They pledged to enhance their cooperation as Major Defense Partners, resolving that two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries.”

The read-out would not have come without an Indian nod, suggesting that New Delhi is on the same page as Washington, particularly after it has also been shepherded into the American idea of a US-Japan-India-Australia ”Quad.”

The US statement said President Trump also expressed appreciation that Indian purchases of oil from the United States have surpassed 10 million barrels in recent months, and expressed confidence that stronger energy cooperation will be a geopolitical and economic game changer for both countries.

India recently began purchasing oil from the US – half a world away – expanding its traditional sourcing from the Gulf region, a move that not only keeps Washington and its lawmakers happy, but also dilutes India’s dependency on a region whose stability and reliability is always suspect.

While the brief read-out was businesslike – aside from the reference to the need for great democracies to have the greatest militaries – there was no word on any bilateral visits.

Without mentioning Ivanka Trump, the statement said Prime Minister Modi noted that he looks forward to hosting the US delegation to the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), showcasing innovation and collaboration between India and the United States.

The President’s daughter Ivanka will be the star attraction at the GES in Hyderabad later this month. That visit is expected to set the stage for a Trump visit early next year.