India-US Joint Statements: A Comparison From 2014 to 2017

With this year’s joint statement reflecting new interests, here is a comparison of key issues from China and the Asia-Pacific, terrorism and Pakistan, to defense, economy and trade.

Prime Minister Modi with President Trump. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: India and the United States have taken on China over both its connectivity project, as well as its maritime domain in South China sea, even as the two largest democracies also cautioned Pakistan together against cross-border terror attacks.

The first India-US joint statement in the new Donald Trump era is not only snappier at less than 1500 words, but also reflects the interests of the new resident of White House – with zero mention of climate change, but stronger support for action again North Korea with stress on the need to balance trade. The Wire has compared the key issues in the joint statements from 2014 to 2017 to trace changes in priority.

China and the Asia-Pacific

September 2014

“The Prime Minister and the President reaffirmed their shared interest in preserving regional peace and stability, which are critical to the Asia Pacific region’s continued prosperity. The leaders expressed concern about rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes, and affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. The Prime Minister and President called on all parties to avoid the use, or threat of use, of force in advancing their claims. The two leaders urged the concerned parties to pursue resolution of their territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

January 2015

“Recognising the important role that both countries play in promoting peace, prosperity, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, and noting that India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and the United States’ rebalance to Asia provide opportunities for India, the United States, and other Asia-Pacific countries to work closely to strengthen regional ties, the Leaders announced a Joint Strategic Vision to guide their engagement in the region.”

June 2016

“The leaders applauded the completion of a roadmap for cooperation under the 2015 U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, which will serve as a guide for collaboration in the years to come. They resolved that the United States and India should look to each other as priority partners in the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean region.”

June 2017

As responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi agreed that a close partnership between the United States and India is central to peace and stability in the region. Recognising the significant progress achieved in these endeavours, the leaders agreed to take further measures to strengthen their partnership. In accordance with the tenets outlined in the U.N. Charter, they committed to a set of common principles for the region, according to which sovereignty and international law are respected and every country can prosper. To this end, the leaders:

  • reiterate the importance of respecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce throughout the region;

  • call upon all nations to resolve territorial and maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law;

  • support bolstering regional economic connectivity through the transparent development of infrastructure and the use of responsible debt financing practices, while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law, and the environment; and

  • call on other nations in the region to adhere to these principles.”

From shared interests to priority partners and ‘responsible stewards’, there has been steady upgrade in the rhetoric used to frame cooperation between India and United States in the Asia-Pacific. In fact, in a significant change in phrase, the joint statement for the first time uses the term Indo-Pacific – rather than just referring to ‘Asia-Pacific’ as in previous bilateral documents. In fact, in rather unsubtle poking of China, the sub-heading of the 2017 joint statement is ‘Democratic Stalwarts of Indo-Pacific region’.

While the talks in Washington were going on, the Sino-Indian border was facing a serious incident. The reading of the rest of the first section of the India-US joint statement is not likely to bring down tempers in Beijing.

In 2015, India and US released the joint strategic vision Joint Strategic Vision on Asia-Pacific and IOR. This time, the two countries have formulated a four-point “common set of principles” – all of the which have framed keeping China in mind.

The first two points are a direct reference to the South China dispute, even though just like in 2016, the document does not mean it by name. The 2014 joint statement and the vision document had both specifically mentioned freedom of navigation and overflight within South China Sea.

However, the new entrant in this section is the common stance taken on regional connectivity. Unlike India, US had sent a representative to the Belt and Road initiative, despite have concerns. Therefore, it is certainly significant that the requirement of transparency and debt financing practices in connectivity project, essentially mirror India’s own statement giving reason for refusing the invitation to the summit. It could even be termed as an indirect indictment by US of OBOR project. The tone of the last point – calling on countries to ‘adhere’ to the principles drawn by India and US – will certainly rankle even further in the Chinese capital.

Terrorism and Pakistan

September 2014

The leaders reaffirmed their deep concern over the continued threat posed by terrorism, most recently highlighted by the dangers presented by the ISIL, and underlined the need for continued comprehensive global efforts to combat and defeat terrorism. The leaders stressed the need for joint and concerted efforts, including the dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, to disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks such as Al Qaeda,Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqanis. They reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice.

They pledged to enhance criminal law enforcement, security, and military information exchanges, and strengthen cooperation on extradition and mutual legal assistance. Through operational cooperation through their law enforcement agencies, they aimed to prevent the spread of counterfeit currency and inhibit the use of cyberspace by terrorists, criminals, and those who use the internet for unlawful purposes, and to facilitate investigation of criminal and terrorist activities. The leaders also committed to identify modalities to exchange terrorist watch lists. President Obama pledged to help India counter the threat of improvised explosive devices with information and technology. The leaders committed to pursue provision of U.S.-made mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to India.

January 2015

“The Leaders committed to undertake efforts to make the U.S.-India partnership a defining counterterrorism relationship for the 21st Century by deepening collaboration to combat the full spectrum of terrorist threats and keep their respective homelands and citizens safe from attacks. The Leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations with ‘zero tolerance’ and reaffirmed their deep concern over the continued threat posed by transnational terrorism including by groups like Al Qaida and the ISIL, and called for eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing, and stopping cross-border movement of terrorists.

The Leaders reaffirmed the need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company and the Haqqani Network, and agreed to continue ongoing efforts through the Homeland Security Dialogue as well as the next round of the U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism in late 2015 to develop actionable elements of bilateral engagement. The two sides noted the recent U.S. sanctions against three D Company affiliates. The President and the Prime Minister further agreed to continue to work toward an agreement to share information on known and suspected terrorists. They also agreed to enter discussions to deepen collaboration on UN terrorist designations, and reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice.”

June 2016

“The leaders acknowledged the continued threat posed to human civilisation by terrorism and condemn the recent terrorist incidents from Paris to Pathankot, from Brussels to Kabul. They resolved to redouble their efforts, bilaterally and with other like-minded countries, to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism anywhere in the world and the infrastructure that supports them.

…The leaders committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from extremist groups, such as Al-Qa’ida, Da’esh/ISIL, Jaish-e Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D Company and their affiliates, including through deepened collaboration on UN terrorist designations. In this context, they directed their officials to identify specific new areas of collaboration at the next meeting of U.S.–India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group.

Recognising an important milestone in the U.S.-India counterterrorism partnership, the leaders applauded the finalisation of an arrangement to facilitate the sharing of terrorist screening information. They also called for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terrorist attacks to justice. The leaders affirmed their support for a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that advances and strengthens the framework for global cooperation and reinforces that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism.”

June 2017

“The Leaders stressed that terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought and terrorist safe havens rooted out in every part of the world. They resolved that India and the United States will fight together against this grave challenge to humanity. They committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D-Company, and their affiliates. India appreciated the United States designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist as evidence of the commitment of the United States to end terror in all its forms. In this spirit, the leaders welcomed a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals.

The leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.

The leaders announced increased cooperation to prevent terrorist travel and to disrupt global recruitment efforts by expanding intelligence-sharing and operational-level counterterrorism cooperation. They welcomed commencement of the exchange of information on known and suspected terrorists for travel screening. They further resolved to strengthen information exchange on plans, movements and linkages of terrorist groups and their leaders, as well as on raising and moving of funds by terrorist groups.

The leaders also affirmed their support for a U.N. Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism. They also pledged to work together to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors.

In his media briefing after the meeting in White House, foreign secretary S Jaishankar read out two lines which he said were key takeaways from the joint statement. This was the paragraph which for the first time in a India-US joint statement referred to “cross-border terrorist attacks”. While previous statements had stopped at asking Pakistan to bring to justice 26/11 and Pathankot perpetrators, Monday’s statement made it clear that Pakistan was responsible for hosting terror groups on its soil. Washington had previously accepted the term cross-border attack in context of Pakistan during the phone call between the two NSAs Ajit Doval and Susan Rice after the Uri attack.

The announcement of Hizbul Mujahiddeen leader Syed Salahuddin as the Special Designated Global Terrorist was certainly a ‘crowd pleaser’ and set the scene. However, it may not mean much in real terms as Pakistan is under no obligation to act.

Keeping in mind New Delhi’s strong interest in getting more and more terrorists listed for sanctions, a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals has now been established.

For the second consecutive year, US expressed support for the India-initiated UN comprehensive convention on international terrorism, despite there being concerns over some sections of the government.


September 2014

“The leaders welcomed the first meeting under the framework of the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative in September 2014 and endorsed its decision to establish a Task Force to expeditiously evaluate and decide on unique projects and technologies which would have a transformative impact on bilateral defense relations and enhance India’s defense industry and military capabilities.”

“The President and Prime Minister welcomed cooperation in the area of military education and training, and endorsed plans for the United States to cooperate with India’s planned National Defence University. They also decided to expand military-to-military partnerships including expert exchanges, dialogues, and joint training and exercises. They also committed to enhancing exchanges of civilian and military intelligence and consultation.”

January 2015

“Prime Minister Modi and President Obama welcomed the efforts made by both sides to expand bilateral defence cooperation in areas of mutual interest and reaffirmed their commitment to continue to work towards deepening the bilateral defence relationship. The Leaders acknowledged bilateral military ties as the foundation of the defense relationship and encouraged their respective militaries to pursue additional opportunities for engagement through exercises, military personnel exchanges, and defense dialogues”.

“The Prime Minister and the President stated their intention to expand defense cooperation to bolster national, regional, and global security. The two leaders reaffirmed that India and the United States would build an enduring partnership in which both sides treat each other at the same level as their closest partners, including defense technology transfers, trade, research, co-production, and co-development.”

“The Leaders also acknowledged the need for the two-way defence engagement to include technology cooperation and collaboration, co-production and co-development. To this end, the President and the Prime Minister emphasised the ongoing importance of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) in developing new areas of technology cooperation in the defence sector including through co-development and co-production and the Prime Minister welcomed the U.S. Defense Department’s establishment of a dedicated rapid reaction team focused exclusively on advancing DTTI. The Leaders expressed confidence that continued DTTI collaboration will yield additional joint projects in the near future.”

“The President also welcomed the Prime Minister’s initiatives to liberalise the Foreign Direct Investment Policy regime in the defence sector and the Leaders agreed to cooperate on India’s efforts to establish a defence industrial base in India, including through initiatives like ‘Make in India.”

June 2016

“Noting that the U.S.-India defence relationship can be an anchor of stability, and given the increasingly strengthened cooperation in defense, the United States hereby recognises India as a Major Defence Partner. As such:

  • The United States will continue to work toward facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners. The leaders reached an understanding under which India would receive license-free access to a wide range of dual-use technologies in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives.

  • In support of India’s Make In India initiative, and to support the development of robust defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain, the United States will continue to facilitate the export of goods and technologies, consistent with US law, for projects, programs and joint ventures in support of official US-India defence cooperation.”

June 2017

“President Trump and Prime Minister Modi pledged to deepen defense and security cooperation, building on the United States’ recognition of India as a Major Defense Partner. The United States and India look forward to working together on advanced defense equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States. Reflecting the partnership, the United States has offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems, which would enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests.”

The defence partnership between the United States and India has been in equal parts political and strategic and the latest joint statement is no different. Unlike other areas of cooperation, where the trajectory of the US-India relationship may still be unclear, both sides agreed to building upon India’s ‘major defense partner’ status.

The symbolic and practical nature of the sale of the Sea Guardian drones is very similar to the LEMOA agreement signed under the Obama administration: military equipment like the Predator and Sea Guardian drones are generally made only available to NATO allies and countries like the US.

And yet, crucial words like co-production, India’s domestic defence industry and Make-in-India which marked previous statements are missing. The Indo-US defence trade and technology initiative which was flagged off in 2014 has also floundered. Some of Trump’s first words to Modi were “Thank you for ordering equipment from US; no one makes military equipment like the US”.

While this may portend a warm relationship, it’s clear that more may need to be done to get Make-in-India defence projects  back at the centre of talks.

Maritime Cooperation

September 2014

The leaders agreed to intensify cooperation in maritime security to ensure freedom of navigation and unimpeded movement of lawful shipping and commercial activity, in accordance with accepted principles of international law. To achieve this objective, the two sides considered enhancing technology partnerships for India’s Navy including assessing possible areas of technology cooperation. They also agreed to upgrade their existing bilateral exercise MALABAR.

January 2015

Prime Minister Modi and President Obama expressed satisfaction over the efforts made by both countries to deepen cooperation in the field of maritime security, as reflected in the 2015 Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship. To this end, they agreed that the navies of both sides would continue discussions to identify specific areas for expanding maritime cooperation. They also reiterated their commitment to upgrading their bilateral naval exercise MALABAR.

June 2016

They welcomed the inaugural meeting of the Maritime Security Dialogue. Owing to mutual interest in maritime security and maritime domain awareness, the leaders welcomed the conclusion of a technical arrangement for sharing of maritime “White Shipping” information.

The leaders affirmed their support for U.S.-India cooperation in promoting maritime security. They reiterated the importance they attach to ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight and exploitation of resources as per international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and settlement of territorial disputes by peaceful means.

June 2017

Resolving to expand their maritime security cooperation, the leaders announced their intention to build on the implementation of their “White Shipping” data sharing arrangement, which enhances collaboration on maritime domain awareness. President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s strong support for the United States to join as an Observer in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. Noting the importance of the upcoming MALABAR naval exercise, the leaders determined to expand their engagements on shared maritime objectives and to explore new exercises.

With the use of the term of Indo-Pacific in the joint statement, the thrust of the defence cooperation seems to be more robust in the maritime domain. India is certainly interested at having the US maintain a strong presence in the Indian Ocean. This is, especially, true with China’s navy increasing its forays into the Indian ocean, with base in Djibouti and visits to ports criss-crossing across the region. Trump called the forthcoming tri-nation Malabar naval exercise as the largest in Indian ocean, which is already viewed with suspicion by the Chinese. These intentions will again be question, after India endorsed US’s proposal to be an observer of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, which seeks to increase cooperation among the navies of the littoral states.

Nuclear Energy

September 2014

The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to implement fully the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement. They established a Contact Group on advancing the implementation of civil nuclear energy cooperation in order to realise early their shared goal of delivering electricity from U.S.-built nuclear power plants in India. They looked forward to advancing the dialogue to discuss all implementation issues, including but not limited to administrative issues, liability, technical issues, and licensing to facilitate the establishment of nuclear parks, including power plants with Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi technology.

January 2015

“Noting that the Contact Group set up in September 2014 to advance implementation of bilateral civil nuclear cooperation has met three times in December and January, the Leaders welcomed the understandings reached on the issues of civil nuclear liability and administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation, and looked forward to U.S.-built nuclear reactors contributing to India’s energy security at the earliest.”

June 2016

“The steps that the two governments have taken in the last two years through the U.S.-India Contact Group, including by addressing the nuclear liability issue, inter alia, through India’s ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, have laid a strong foundation for a long-term partnership between U.S. and Indian companies for building nuclear power plants in India. Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, the leaders welcomed the start of preparatory work on site in India for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse and noted the intention of India and the U.S. Export-Import Bank to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project. Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement and demonstrating a shared commitment to meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Both sides welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017.”

June 2017

“Prime Minister Modi and President Trump looked forward to conclusion of contractual agreements between Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India for six nuclear reactors in India and also related project financing.”

As per Modi and Obama’s joint decision in 2016, Westinghouse and NPCIL were given a year’s deadline to get their contracts finalised for supply of nuclear reactors. But, with Westinghouse having filed for bankruptcy in March, the Indian side was unwilling to negotiate till its financial fate was clearer. “We have been told that by the end of this year, Westinghouse will rework its current situation and will be back in business,” said foreign secretary S. Jaishankar.


September 2014

“As a critical step in strengthening global nonproliferation and export control regimes, the President and Prime Minister committed to continue work towards India’s phased entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. The President affirmed that India meets MTCR requirements and is ready for membership in the NSG. He supported India’s early application and eventual membership in all four regimes.”

January 2015

“In a further effort to strengthen global nonproliferation and export control regimes, the President and the Prime Minister committed to continue to work towards India’s phased entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group. The President reaffirmed the United States’ position that India meets MTCR requirements and is ready for NSG membership and that it supports India’s early application and eventual membership in all four regimes.”

June 2016

“Recalling their shared commitment to preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, the leaders looked forward to India’s imminent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime. President Obama welcomed India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and re-affirmed that India is ready for membership. The United States called on NSG Participating Governments to support India’s application when it comes up at the NSG Plenary later this month. The United States also re-affirmed its support for India’s early membership of the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement.”

June 2017

As global non-proliferation partners, the United States expressed strong support for India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group.

India is now a member of the MTCR, but the Nuclear Suppliers Group remains a chimera. Last week, another plenary meeting of the NSG was held, this time in Bern, but ended up without any decision on India’s membership in the face of objections from China and some other country. While there is still no sign that the Trump administration will lobby actively on India’s behalf, the language is more robust, with US promised “strong support” for an “early membership”.

Global issues

September 2014

“Recognising the importance of their respective strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, the leaders asserted the importance of a sustainable, inclusive, sovereign, and democratic political order in Afghanistan, and committed to continue close consultations and cooperation in support of Afghanistan’s future.”

“They stressed the need for diplomacy to resolve the serious concerns of the international community regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and called on Iran to comply with its UN Security Council-imposed obligations and to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

“The two leaders expressed concerns over the continued development by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, including its uranium enrichment activities. They urged DPRK to take concrete actions toward denuclearisation and other goals, as well as to comply fully with all its international obligations, including all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks.”

January 2015

“The President and the Prime Minister also stressed the importance of the economic and transport connectivity between Central and South Asia and the need to promote a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan as part of a secure, stable, and prosperous region. Reaffirming the importance of their strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, the Leaders asserted the importance of a sustainable, inclusive, sovereign, and democratic political order in Afghanistan and they agreed to convene further high-level consultations on Afghanistan in the near future.”

“The Leaders welcomed recent progress and noted the criticality of Iran taking steps to verifiably assure the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme, and agreed that this is an historic opportunity for Iran to resolve outstanding concerns related to its nuclear programme.”

June 2016

“Building on their respective bilateral engagements with Africa, such as the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and India-Africa Forum Summit, the leaders reflected that the United States and India share a common interest in working with partners in Africa to promote prosperity and security across the continent.”

June 2017

“President Trump welcomed further Indian contributions to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity, and security. Recognizing the importance of their respective strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, the leaders committed to continue close consultations and cooperation in support of Afghanistan’s future.”

“In accord with India’s Think West policy, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi resolved to increase cooperation, enhance diplomatic consultations, and increase tangible collaboration with partners in the Middle East.”

“The leaders strongly condemned continued provocations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), emphasising that its destabilising pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programs poses a grave threat to regional security and global peace. The leaders called on DPRK to strictly abide by its international obligations and commitments. The leaders pledged to work together to counter the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction programs, including by holding accountable all parties that support these programs.”

Not surprisingly, the regional issues which seem to have figured largely in talks between the two sides were Afghanistan, West Asia and North Korea – all three being of key importance to the Trump White House. Foreign Secretary Jaishankar noted that ongoing US policy review of Afghanistan figured in the talks. Enhancing Indian contribution in Afghanistan seemed to have loomed big, with New Delhi likely to increase its military cooperation with the Afghan security forces. With Indian Prime Minister visiting Israel next week, the middle-east was certainly another region to exchange notes. However, India was likely to have been on listening mode when US officials spoke about North Korea, with the east Asian nation having rapidly gone up the foreign policy priority ladder with its rocket launches and detention of americans. During the press conference, Trump mentioned that India will help to put pressure on North Korea. Ahead of the visit in May, India had officially announced that it would stop all trade with North Korea, except for food and medicine.

Climate change

September 2014

Both leaders are committed to working towards a successful outcome in Paris in 2015 of the conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the creation of a new global agreement on climate change.”

“They launched a new U.S.-India Partnership for Climate Resilience to advance capacity for climate adaptation planning, and a new program of work on air quality aimed at delivering benefits for climate change and human health.

They also launched a new U.S.-India Climate Fellowship Program to build long-term capacity to address climate change-related issues in both countries. The President and Prime Minister instructed their senior officials to work through the U.S.-India Energy Dialogue, U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Combating Climate Change, and other relevant fora to advance these and other initiatives.

The leaders welcomed the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Export-Import Bank and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, which would make up to $1 billion in financing available to bolster India’s efforts to transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient energy economy, while boosting U.S. renewable energy exports to India. The two leaders reiterated the importance of conserving India’s precious biodiversity and agreed to explore opportunities for collaboration on national parks and wildlife conservation.”

January 2015

“…They also stressed the importance of working together and with other countries to conclude an ambitious climate agreement in Paris in 2015. To this end, they plan to cooperate closely over the next year to achieve a successful agreement in Paris…”

June 2016

“…Leadership from both countries helped galvanise global action to combat climate change and culminated in the historic Paris Agreement reached last December…India and the United States recognise the urgency of climate change and share the goal of enabling entry into force of the Paris Agreement as early as possible. The United States reaffirms its commitment to join the Agreement as soon as possible this year. India similarly has begun its processes to work toward this shared objective…”

June 2017 

“Surveying United States-India energy ties and the two countries’ respective energy strategies, the leaders affirmed the continued importance of their Strategic Energy Partnership and of leveraging new opportunities to elevate cooperation to enhance global energy security. The leaders called for a rational approach that balances environment and climate policy, global economic development, and energy security needs.”

“President Trump affirmed that the United States continues to remove barriers to energy development and investment in the United States and to U.S. energy exports so that more natural gas, clean coal, and renewable resources and technologies are available to fuel India’s economic growth and inclusive development.”

“Both leaders welcomed upcoming visits between India and the United States that will expand energy and innovation linkages across the energy sector and deepen cooperation, including on more efficient fossil fuel technologies, smart grids, and energy storage. They supported financing of energy projects, including clean coal projects, by Multilateral Development Banks to promote universal access to affordable and reliable energy”

This section is perhaps, the biggest change between the Obama and Trump administration. The phrase ‘climate change’ does not even figure, with the 2017 joint statement talking of balance between ‘climate policy’ and economic development. Modi is likely to have had whiplash from the complete turnaround, especially since he and Obama had devoted large part of their discussions on the topic of clean energy.

Even as Trump is intertwining his energy and environment policy, he was eager to get a ‘good deal’ from India in natural gas, which he publicly mentioned at their joint press appearance in Rose Garden. He said that India will sign long-term contracts, after the price is negotiated a big higher. However, Indian firms have already secured long term contracts for LNG.

Cyber issues

September 2014

Through operational cooperation through their law enforcement agencies, they aimed to prevent the spread of counterfeit currency and inhibit the use of cyberspace by terrorists, criminals, and those who use the internet for unlawful purposes, and to facilitate investigation of criminal and terrorist activities.

January 2015

“The two sides also noted the growing cooperation between their law enforcement agencies, particularly in the areas of extradition and mutual legal assistance, to counter transnational criminal threats such as terrorism, narcotics, trafficking, financial and economic fraud, cybercrime, and transnational organised crime and pledged to enhance such cooperation further. The President and the Prime Minister also noted the serious risks to national and economic security from malicious cyber activity and agreed to cooperate on enhancing operational sharing of cyber threat information, examining how international law applies in cyberspace, and working together to build agreement on norms of responsible state behaviour.”

 June 2016

“The leaders emphasized that cyberspace enables economic growth and development, and reaffirmed their commitment to an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet, underpinned by the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. They committed to deepen cooperation on cybersecurity and welcomed the understanding reached to finalize the Framework for the U.S.-India Cyber Relationship in the near term. They committed to enhance cyber collaboration on critical infrastructure, cybercrime, and malicious cyber activity by state and non-state actors, capacity building, and cybersecurity research and development, and to continue discussions on all aspects of trade in technology and related services, including market access. They have committed to continue dialogue and engagement in Internet governance fora, including in ICANN, IGF and other venues, and to support active participation by all stakeholders of the two countries in these fora. The leaders committed to promote stability in cyberspace based on the applicability of international law including the United Nations Charter, the promotion of voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour during peacetime, and the development and implementation of practical confidence building measures between states.

In this context, they affirmed their commitment to the voluntary norms that no country should conduct or knowingly support online activity that intentionally damages critical infrastructure or otherwise impairs the use of it to provide services to the public; that no country should conduct or knowingly support activity intended to prevent national computer security incident response teams from responding to cyber incidents, or use its own teams to enable online activity that is intended to do harm; that every country should cooperate, consistent with its domestic law and international obligations, with requests for assistance from other states in mitigating malicious cyber activity emanating from its territory; and that no country should conduct or knowingly support ICT-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to its companies or commercial sectors.”

June 2017

The leaders also agreed to strengthen their cooperation to address the growing threats and challenges from malicious cyber activity and committed to work together to promote an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable cyberspace environment that supports innovation, economic growth, and commerce.

The future of Indo-US cyber cooperation is curious, partly because most are unsure how the Trump administration views issues that both countries made significant progress on during the Obama administration and to what extent the US presidency will distance itself from remarks and stances taken by candidate Donald Trump back in 2016.

While the latest 2017 statement is bare-bones – almost wholly mimicking the two lines also present in the June 2016 statement –  it should be noted that the first two years of statements from working with the Obama administration were also largely non-committal. It was in 2016, however, that Obama and Modi took a giant leap with a framework for the “US-India Cyber Relationship”

The 2017 statement, notably, makes no reference to this. The US-India cyber relationship committed to a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and engagement in forums such as ICANN and IGF. In the run-up to the US elections, Trump made a number of remarks that indicated he strongly disagreed with doing so.

More crucially, the 2016 cyber relationship agreed to commit to a number of norms over how sovereign countries should treat one another’s critical digital infrastructure. While this should be a no-brainer for the world’s two biggest democracies, it is clear that the Trump-Russia imbroglio may complicate things and not allow the United States to freely commit to how both countries should tackle state-sponsored malicious cyber activity.

Economy and trade

September 2014

“Noting that two-way trade has increased five-fold since 2001 to nearly $100 billion, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi committed to facilitate the actions necessary to increase trade another fivefold. President Obama and Prime Minister Modi recognised that U.S. and Indian businesses have a critical role to play in sustainable, inclusive, and job-led growth and development.”

January 2015

“Prime Minister Modi and President Obama expressed confidence that continued bilateral collaboration will increase opportunities for investment, improve bilateral trade and investment ties and lead to the creation of jobs and prosperity in both economies.”

June 2016

“In order to substantially increase bilateral trade, they pledged to explore new opportunities to break down barriers to the movement of goods and services, and support deeper integration into global supply chains, thereby creating jobs and generating prosperity in both economies.”

June 2017

“Noting that extensive economic and tax reforms launched in their respective countries will unlock immense economic opportunities for both countries, the leaders committed to further expanding and balancing the trade relationship and to removing obstacles to growth and jobs creation.”

“They also resolved to pursue increased commercial engagement in a manner that advances the principles of free and fair trade. To this end, the United States and India plan to undertake a comprehensive review of trade relations with the goal of expediting regulatory processes; ensuring that technology and innovation are appropriately fostered, valued, and protected; and increasing market access in areas such as agriculture, information technology, and manufactured goods and services.”

“President Trump and Prime Minister Modi further committed to strengthening cooperation to address excess capacity in industrial sectors. They called on their teams to find creative ways to improve bilateral trade.”

Economic cooperation and trade relations often have the same buzzwords over the years: ‘growth’, ‘jobs’, ‘opportunities’ and ‘prosperity’. The 2017 statement is no different this regard. Where it differs is it goes one step ahead of the 2016 Obama-Modi statement, which references “barriers” to movement of goods and services and asks to undertake a comprehensive review of trade relations with the goal of expediting regulatory processes.

This is not surprising, especially given Trump’s public statements on how India and US must have a trade relationship that is “fair and reciprocal” and that Indian barriers to US exports must be removed.

While little is known about the logistics of the upcoming trade review, it shows that neither country is happy with its exports situation, as the phrase “strengthening cooperation to address excess capacity in industrial sectors” shows.

Notable Absentees in Economic Cooperation

September 2014

“In order to raise investment by institutional investors and corporate entities, the leaders pledged to establish an Indo-U.S. Investment Initiative led by the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Treasury, with special focus on capital market development and financing of infrastructure.”

“In this context, the U.S. government welcomes India’s offer for U.S. industry to be the lead partner in developing smart cities in Ajmer (Rajasthan), Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh).”

“Agreeing on the need to foster innovation in a manner that promotes economic growth and job creation, the leaders committed to establish an annual high-level Intellectual Property (IP) Working Group with appropriate decision-making and technical-level meetings as part of the Trade Policy Forum.”

“They recognised in particular the contribution of the Indian and U.S. Information Technology (IT) industry and the IT-enabled service industry in strengthening India-U.S. trade and investment relations.”

January 2015

“The two sides agreed to hold a discussion on the elements required in both countries to pursue an India-U.S. Totalisation Agreement.”

“To this end, the Leaders instructed their officials to assess the prospects for moving forward with high-standard bilateral investment treaty discussions given their respective approaches.”

“Convening of the Smart Cities Conclave on 22 November 2014 organised by the U.S.-India Business Council in cooperation with the Ministry of Urban Development and the Mayors and Commissioners of Ajmer (Rajasthan), Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) and Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and the decision by the Government of India to constitute a high-level committee for each of the three Smart Cities comprising different departments of the Central Government, the state governments, local governments, and representatives of the U.S. industry.”

June 2016

“They also commended the increased engagement on trade and investment issues under the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) and encouraged substantive results for the next TPF later this year. They welcomed the engagement of U.S. private sector companies in India’s Smart City program.

“The leaders resolved to facilitate greater movement of professionals, investors and business travelers, students, and exchange visitors between their countries to enhance people-to-people contact as well as their economic and technological partnership.”

“To this end, they welcomed the signing of an MOU for Development of an International Expedited Traveler Initiative (also known as the Global Entry Program) and resolved to complete within the next three months the procedures for India’s entry into the Global Entry Program.”

June 2017

“Recognising that we are in an increasingly digital world, the leaders agreed to intensify the mutually beneficial partnership to fully harness their innovation capabilities to solve global developmental challenges.”

“Applauding the entrepreneurship and innovation of Indians and Indian-Americans that have directly benefitted both nations, President Trump welcomed India’s formal entry into the International Expedited Traveller Initiative (Global Entry program) in order to facilitate closer business and educational ties between the citizens of India and the United States.”

One thing especially true of the Trump administration is its distaste for global or third-party forums in solving disputes of any kind. While this is only the first meeting of both leaders, and the first of many discussions between various government departments and officials, it is unlikely that future statements will include reference to cooperation at organisations such as the WTO or the Trade Policy Forum as a means of resolving disputes related to trade and investments. The 2017 statement is, consequently, silent on this.

There are a number of other developments that are absent in the latest statement, the most important of which is the India-US bilateral investment treaty which, under the Obama administration in 2016, made a decent amount of headway. Ditto with the Totalisation Agreement.

Other absences are equally notable: there is no mention of ‘Make-in-India’ or US investment into Modi’s other pet projects including Smart Cities and Swacch Bharat. It may be that outright mention of Make-in-India, even if its spirit is referenced in areas such as defence cooperation, is simply not on the table right now while other projects such as Smart Cities have not taken off as well as hoped over the last three years.

Finally, is the contentious issue of H-1B visas and movement of Indian IT professionals. While the 2017 statement echoed the participation of India in the expedited traveler initiative, there is no mention of the Indian IT industry (in sharp contrast to the 2014 statement). According to news reports, there was no outright discussion about the issue that Trump has been particularly vocal about. When asked by reporters, foreign secretary S Jaishankar pointed to  the line  on “digital partnership” — a supremely vague statement that doesn’t tackle the core issue.