U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday praised India’s “astounding” growth after it opened its economy and also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he has been working successfully to bring the vast country and its people together.
Trump praised PM Modi for bringing the country’s people “together as one…very, very successfully”. At the same time, in what was seen as sharp rebuke to China, Trump railed against trade practices he said have put Americans out of work and warned that the US would no longer “turn a blind eye” to trade abuses.
Trump made these comments at an address at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit of chief executives in Vietnam, where he arrived earlier today from a trip in China. The US President’s laudatory comments about India and PM Modi come just months after a very successful maiden meeting between the two leaders in Washington in August.
He pointed out that India was celebrating the 70th anniversary of its independence and highlighted that the country was a sovereign democracy, with a population of 1.3 billion, as well as the largest democracy in the world. “Since India opened its economy, it has achieved astounding growth and a new world of opportunities for its expanding middle class,” Mr. Trump said.
“And Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi has been working to bring that vast country and all of its people as one. And he has been working at it very successfully indeed,” the U.S. President said.
Prime Minister Modi leaves for the Philippines on Sunday to attend the India-ASEAN and East Asia summits. Trump is also scheduled to attend the East Asia Summit, a key meeting between ASEAN and eight of its partners.
The U.S. president also used his speech at the APEC business meet to promote his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. “We have been friends, partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific for a long, long time,” he said. “The story of this region in recent decades is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future.”
The use of the term Indo-Pacific by President Trump has led to speculation that it may have something to do with Washington preparing the ground for a revival of the so-called Quadrilateral strategic alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China’s rise.
China has already reacted cautiously over a proposal by the Trump administration for a working-level quadrilateral meeting with India, Japan and Australia, saying Beijing hopes that it would not target or damage a “third party’s interest”.
In his address, Mr. Trump also praised countries like Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Japan, which also briefly touched on the bloody history of the Vietnam war, in which Da Nang was a key battlefield.
“Today we are no longer enemies, we are friends,” Trump said.