Amid growing strategic and defense ties, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump will hold their first bilateral meeting in Washington on Monday.

“Donald Trump will host visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a “working dinner” on Monday, the first for a foreign leader by the US President at the White House in his five-month term,” leading Indian daily India Express reported.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, President Trump took to Twitter to welcome Indian Prime Minister, calling him a ‘true friend.’

“I think you can expect the two of them to set forth a vision that will expand the U.S.-India partnership in an ambitious and worthy way of both countries’ people,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Prime Minister Modi, an avid Twitter user himself, replied:

With more than 30 million followers, Prime Minister Modi is the second most followed world leader on Twitter after President Trump.

Confronted with hostile press, both President Trump and Prime Minister Modi have leveraged social media to win elections. A section of liberal media in the U.S. still remains hostile towards Indian Prime Minister. Earlier this year, Washington Post accused Prime Minister Modi and his right-wing party of spreading ‘Islamophobia.’

President Trump approved a $2 billion defense deal ahead of the bilateral meeting. Faced with Chinese naval build-up near India’s western coast, the country hopes to procure U.S.-made unarmed surveillance drones to keep an eye on the coastline. China is building naval presence in Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

The bilateral meeting comes in the wake of renewed Chinese sabre-rattling, with Communist regime reaffirming its claim on South China Sea, where its military continues to build artificial islands.

“As Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to Washington, China has warned India and the U.S. that any moves to deepen military ties in the Asia-Pacific should steer clear of the contested South China Sea,” India’s leading current affairs magazine India Today reported:

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Friday, “With concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea is cooling down. We hope other countries, especially non-regional countries, can respect efforts by countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and can play a constructive role in this regard.”

Apart from tackling Chinese expansionism, a closer U.S.-India strategic alliance could have a stabilising effect on Afghanistan and the region. “[There’s a] real opportunity for Modi and Trump it reach strategic convergence on Middle East, where our interests are increasingly aligning,” said James Jay Carafano, Heritage Foundation’s senior national security expert.

“India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.” President Trump had said in the speech explaining his decision to withdraw from Paris Agreement.

After U.S. pull-out from the Paris Agreement, global climate change agenda led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel rests solely on China and India. Unlike liberal Western leaders, the Asian giants have no ideological commitment to climate change. India as a net beneficiary of the Paris Agreement and has sound economic reason to support the agenda. After the U.S. withdrawal, France and Germany will be alone in footing the huge bill to keep India and China on board.

During his visit to France and Germany earlier this month, Prime Minister took the moral high ground on climate change. India will go “above and beyond” the 2015 Paris accord, vowed Prime Minister Modi. This is in sharp contrast to his pervious positon. “Climate has not changed,” he told a group in Indian students, responding to a question on climate change in 2014.

However, going by Indian Prime Minister’s recent statements, he will not be raising the issue of climate change in Washington.

The issue of trade deficit could figure in the bilateral talks. The U.S. trade deficit with India crossed $24 billion last year. The overall U.S. trade deficit exceeded $500 billion in 2016, with China taking the lion’s share of $347 billon.

After eight years of Obama administration’s internationalist and ideology-driven foreign policy, Monday’s meeting offers both leaders the opportunity to reset the bilateral ties on the basis of mutual and national interests.

Video: Indian Prime Minister Modi arrives in Washington

[Cover image via Youtube]

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