Asia-Pacific News

US, India to keep expectations low, aim for 'easy wins' at Trump-Modi meeting, say analysts

Key Points
  • The U.S. and India were likely to aim to keep expectations for the meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi low, analysts said.
  • Thorny issues such as trade and immigration will likely be set aside, analysts said.
Trump-Modi talks: A 'handshake meeting'

The U.S. and India are likely to keep expectations low while scoring easy wins during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week, analysts said Monday ahead of the Indian leader's visit to Washington.

"The Indians especially would want this to be more of a handshake meeting, and would like (to) deliberately lower expectations of what might come out of this meeting," Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asian Centre at Atlantic Council, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday.

That's why India has not jostled to be the first and was making sure it will not be the last of world leaders to meet Trump, he added. The U.S. leader has met the leaders of Japan, the U.K. and Vietnam since taking office in January.

"Lowering expectations is also a way to ensure the engagement is successful," he added.

Dhruva Jaishankar, a fellow of foreign policy at Brookings India, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Monday that defense issues would likely be on the agenda.

The U.S. is expected to authorize India's purchase of a naval variant of the Predator drone, Reuters reported last week, citing two sources familiar with the situation. An agreement on the purchase of 22 unarmed drones would be worth more than $2 billion.

"Deals like that is an easy way for both leaders to show wins. Both want to promote their defense industries and that's a way they can do it together," Jaishankar said. "The two governments have a lot more say in the defense sector, they are sole buyers in many ways. It's much easier to have quick wins than some of the more complex deals."

How US-India ties might play out

There are still some bugbears in the relationship, such as immigration and trade.

"Some of those more thorny issues will be set aside for now, and they will focus on easy areas of cooperation," added Jaishankar.

Also on the discussion table is likely to be North Korea, as the South Asian nation is its third largest trading partner.

The Indian leader will likely highlight win-win U.S. deals with India and offer more of a burden-sharing role, "exactly what Trump is hectoring his European allies about," said Jaishankar.

Despite differences, "the U.S.-India relationship is a strategic relationship. Patience is the keyword," said Gopalaswamy.