Preparing for a Potential President Trump, India and U.S. Make Agreements
In their seventh meeting and second visit in as many years, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Barack Obama met at the White House on Tuesday, strengthening bonds between the U.S. and India on a number of issues. Most notable was a verbal agreement for India to join the climate change accord that was drawn up in Paris last December. But two outside factors hovered over the meeting and the flurry of activity it produced: China and Donald Trump.
China dominates the Asia-Pacific region both economically and militarily, with both the largest economy and the strongest military. Increasingly, China has shown signs of aggression as it takes steps to secure a chain of disputed island chains in the South China Sea and continues to ensure trade deals are implemented on its terms. In remarks following the meeting, neither Obama nor Modi directly mentioned China, but several moves seemed to be fueled by the potential for further Chinese aggression.
For one, the two all but finalized a deal that would include India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a international body committed to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The two leaders also announced plans for India to purchase six nuclear reactors from a U.S. based firm by June 2017.
And while his threat to India might not be quite as immediate or forthcoming as China’s, Donald Trump also proved to be a catalytic force in Tuesday’s talks. His fiery rhetoric and divisive tone have alarmed Indian officials. Analysts view New Delhi’s recent warming to Washington as a way to accomplish as much as possible in the event that Trump is Obama’s successor.
“Modi wants to get as much as he can out of Obama’s last months in office,” Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told The New York Times.
India’s backing of the Paris climate change agreement will bolster the likelihood that it will go into effect before Obama leaves office. Once the 55 countries that emit 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas sign the pact, it will become binding. India is the world’s highest carbon polluter behind China and the U.S. When the pact becomes binding, a government cannot withdraw its commitment for at least four years.
“If the Paris agreement achieves ratification before Inauguration Day, it would be impossible for the Trump administration to renegotiate or even drop out during the first presidential term,” Robert N. Stavins, the director of the environmental economics program at Harvard told the New York Times.
In a statement, India said it will look to officially join the agreement by the end of the year. Modi will continue his diplomatic tour of the Capital on Wednesday, when he will address both houses of Congress.