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Let's join our forces to fight poverty: Modi, Trump in a conversation

India and the United States, we have been discussing on a continuous basis various economic trade and commercial relation issues, says Trump

Business Standard 

Narendra Modi, Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Photo: Reuters

Trump: Thank you very much. It’s great to be with Prime Minister Modi of India. Incredible country and he’s an incredible man. Just had a tremendous election victory and he really is a man who’s loved and respected in his country.

We’re talking about trade and we’re talking about military. We’re talking about many different things, and we’ve had some great discussions...

Modi: (As interpreted) Today, I’m meeting my friend and the representative of the oldest democracy in the world, President Trump. It’s a very important meeting for me. And whenever we’ve had the opportunity, we’ve always met.

... India and the United States are countries who have — which have shared democratic values. And we work for the welfare of the world. And whatever contribution we can make, in whichever way, we have these common values and we work for the progress of humanity, for the world, for continuous progress. We have continuous discussions on these issues.

India and the United States, we have been discussing on a continuous basis various economic trade and commercial relation issues. And on many of these issues, we have welcomed US suggestions. Together, we are working in the area of trade. We are making efforts to take this forward...

Mr President, can you clarify your position on whether you will mediate on Kashmir, please?

Trump: Well, we spoke last night about Kashmir. And the prime minister really feels he has it under control. I know they speak with Pakistan, and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good. We spoke about it last night at great length.

Mr Modi, do you want to add?

Modi: Between India and Pakistan, there are many bilateral issues. And after Imran Khan became prime minister of Pakistan, I called him up to congratulate him. And I told him that Pakistan needs to fight poverty; India too. Pakistan needs to fight illiteracy; India too. Pakistan needs to fight disease; India too.

And so, together, let us join our forces to fight poverty and all the ills that are facing our two countries. Let us work together for the welfare of the people of our two countries. And this is the message that I keep giving my counterpart in Pakistan. Along with President Trump, we also keep talking about the different bilateral issues between us.

Mr. Modi, would you like to have President Trump be involved in negotiating between Pakistan and India?

Modi: India and Pakistan have — all the issues are of bilateral nature. And we do not want to give pains to any country in the world — to, in fact, try to do anything in this, because these issues are bilateral. And I trust that before 1947, when we were one country, that even afterwards we can find solutions through discussions.

Mr. President, is that offer still on the table?

Trump: I’m here. Look, I have a very good relationship with both gentlemen, and I’m here. If for any reason — but I think they can do it themselves very well. They’ve been doing it for a long time.

Mr president, what are your latest thoughts on your threat on pulling out of the WTO? And if you do, can I also ask Mr Modi what’s your response to that, in terms of how it will affect India’s trade strategy?

Trump: Well, we haven’t been happy with the WTO, but now we’re winning cases. We won the big Airbus case, as you know. And it’s a tremendous case. I mean, it’s billions of dollars. That was a very recent victory. And we’re winning cases now. We’re being treated more fairly now in the WTO, which we appreciate.

Modi: (Speaks Hindi; no translation provided.)

Trump: He actually speaks very good English. (Inaudible) don’t want to talk with us. (Laughter.)

Modi: I think — I think you should let us —

Trump: That’s funny.

Modi: (As interrupted) — discuss these things and when we feel the need, we will communicate to you. (Laughter.)

Mr President, what would be your message to the American people in terms of what is your biggest achievement at this G7?

Trump: Well, we’ve had a lot of achievements. We have an achievement with Prime Minister Modi because we’re doing great trade. We’re doing a lot of trade with India; that’s an achievement.

I think, obviously, the Japan deal is a tremendous achievement because it’s one of the biggest trade deals and it affects directly our farmers. Even the fact that he’s taking all of the excess corn that China didn’t take — hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of corn — and he’s buying that. Japan is buying all of that corn at a fair price. And, you know, that was great. So that was very important.

I also think that unity is very important... You saw me with Chancellor Merkel, you saw me with all of them. We had — the relationship is great. We have seven nations. In addition to that, we have other nations, like India and others that came in. Australia came in — Scott. We have a lot of people came in. And I’ll tell you, it’s been total unity. And there’s been no dissension.

Mr President, on the Afghanistan peace talks, do you have an updated timeline? Are there any snags?

Trump: No timeline. Whatever it is. And we’re in no rush. I mean, we’re there. We’re really a police-keeping force more than anything else, frankly...

Edited excerpts from remarks by US President and Prime Minister before a bilateral meeting in Biarritz, France, on August 26

First Published: Sat, August 31 2019. 20:00 IST