The White House on Friday announced President Donald Trump will travel to Asia in November, which will take him to China and four other nations but not India. But the trip could lead to a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Manila that the American leader will attend.
Although there has been no announcement by India yet, Prime Minister Modi is expected to attend the regional summit as well, given the “act East Asia” push he unveiled at the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit in 2014 and that he returned to participate in every summit since; the last one in 2016.
If they do indeed meet in Manila, it will be their third encounter so far, following a day-long, substantive meeting accompanied by their respective delegations in June in Washington DC and an “impromptu interaction” during the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany in July.
It will be their first meeting since Trump unveiled his South Asia policy urging India to play a larger role in Afghanistan. New Delhi will focus almost exclusively on development and economic help, but Pakistan has thrown a tantrum expectedly, arguing, without any success, that India be denied a role.
Trump’s first Asia trip as president on November 3 -14 will take him to China and Vietnam and allied countries Japan, South Korea and Philippines. He will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Dan Nang, in Vietnam and Asean in Manila, Philippines.
“The President will participate in a series of bilateral, multilateral, and cultural engagements,” the White House said in a statement announcing the trip and the Apec and Asean meetings, “demonstrating his continued commitment to the alliances and partnerships of the United States in the region.”
The US president, who will also be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, will “discuss the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region to America’s prosperity and security”, said the White House, a possible reference to the South China Sea disputes involving Beijing’s aggressive claims in the region.
“He will also emphasize the importance of fair and reciprocal economic ties with America’s trade partners,” the statement said.
North Korea, which poses a direct threat to the US and it allies Japan and South Korea, will also figure in his parleys. “The President’s engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the White House said.
President Trump’s first foreign trip after taking office in January was to West Asia — Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestinian National Authority — Belgium and Italy; followed by trips to Poland and Germany for G-20, and a visit to France, marked for history by a never-ending handshake with President Emmanuel Macron.