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Trade and defense topped the agenda as US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for the first time. The two leaders appeared to have a good working relationship.
US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praise on the state of bilateral relations at the White House on Monday, in the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the world's two largest democracies.
As Modi sought to frame a more influential and prosperous India as a win-win for both countries, Trump said he looked forward to an economic and trade relationship that was "fair and reciprocal" to drive job growth in both countries.
"The relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, never been better," Trump said alongside Modi in the Rose Garden in front of top US and Indian officials and the media.
"I am thrilled to salute you, Prime Minister Modi, and the Indian people for all you are accomplishing together. Your accomplishments have been vast," Trump said, praising India's economic growth.
"We hope we'll be catching you very soon in terms of percentage increase - I have to tell you, we're working on it," the president said.
Modi said he wanted to bring the US-India "strategic partnership to new heights."
"We consider the United States as our primary partner in India's socio-economic transformation in all of our flagship programs and schemes," said Modi, referring to his "Make in India" initiative.
"I'm sure that convergence between my vision for a new India and President Trump's vision for 'Making America Great Again' will add a new dimension to our cooperation," Modi said.
Trump said he wanted to open up the Indian market to US exports and reduce the trade deficit. He also said the US would export natural gas to India.
Energy deals "are being negotiated and we will sign – trying to get the price up a little bit," Trump said.
He also thanked India for purchasing 100 planes from Boeing that would create thousands of jobs in the US.
Modi hugs but issues remain
The visit had been billed as an opportunity to gauge whether the two leaders could develop a personal rapport,even if the outcome was short on substance. At one point, Modi pulled Trump in for a big hug and invited him to visit India.
Neither leader spoke of two issues dividing the two countries, namely climate change and a US visa program for high-tech immigrants that Trump would like to cut or reduce.
Beyond trade, defense cooperation and terrorism stood at the top of the agenda. The meeting came as the State Department approved the $365 million (326 million-euro) sale of a C-17 military transport plane to India. The US is also set to approve a $2 billion sale of unarmed drones to help in surveillance of the Indian Ocean.
Modi said India would like to further enhance defense cooperation and defense technology sharing.
On extremism and terrorism, the two nationalist leaders also appeared to concur.
"We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism," Trump said.
Modi later joined Trump and the first lady for dinner at the White House. It was the first dinner Trump has hosted for a foreign dignitary at the White House since he took office in January.
cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)