By all accounts, US President Donald Trump’s telephonic call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to wish him on India’s Independence Day was designed to send out a message to China which has been flexing its muscles in different ways with both the US and India. The announcement after the conversation that India and US have resolved to “elevate their strategic consultations” was a subtle warning to the Chinese not to mess around by browbeating India and asserting its clout and influence.
The decision to “enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue that will elevate their strategic consultations” was a signal to Beijing not to rest content in the belief that the Indo-US strategic partnership is not alive and kicking. Though it explicitly did not say so, the US was reminding China of US backing for India’s stakes and cautioning it against any precipitate action on Doklam.
Significantly, Trump did not make a telephone call to Modi’s Pakistani counterpart though that country’s Independence Day was a day prior to India’s. The message was loud and clear that the US has stopped hyphenating India and Pakistan and regards relations with India on a special footing. It is indeed interesting that Trump’s call to Modi was made hours after the US President announced a review of China’s trade practices, tempering his threat to initiate strong actions that could lead to a trade war in which both sides would suffer.
Trump, who once accused China of plundering the U.S. economy in the “greatest theft in the history of the world,” directed his top trade official to investigate whether to launch an investigation into whether China is, in fact, a thief, and whether it should be punished. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will now look into allegations that China is stealing technology and intellectual property from US companies.