WASHINGTON, D.C. – Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India will meet United States President Donald Trump on Monday. The two world leaders are expected to discuss the fostering of economic, business, and technological ties as well as increased cooperation on security.
The rise of both men to power in the world’s largest democracy and the nation hailed as the leader of the free world are two very different stories, and the political climate that led Modi to win his campaign for chief executive of India is barely comparable to America’s. The political issues facing voters in Wisconsin, Texas, and Florida differ quite a bit from what brought Indians from Gujarat, Goa, and Uttar Pradesh to the polls.
Controlling for context, however, there is much these two leaders can bond over during their meeting Monday. Here are just five similarities that could mark the start of a thriving relationship between these change makers.
Both Trump and Modi are political outliers
Trump and Modi were the outsider candidates, with Trump as a wealthy, non-politician businessman and Modi a small-town outsider who is credited with turning the business environment in his native Gujarat around.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power promising to revive India’s economy after enduring its worst marked slowdown in nearly 20 years. Trump and the Republican Party also gained power in the White House and Congress after years of economic decline.
Both men were able to appeal to the populist elements in America and India, and they both exposed and played upon the gross dissatisfaction with the existing government. Modi and Trump also appealed to youth and the working classes by focusing their platforms around jobs, development, and security.
Among the more direct similarities between the two is the ingenuity in both leaders’ ability to utilize the media to their advantage that helped bolster them to victory, each in his unique way. Modi utilized social media in order to reach hundreds of millions of Indians. Trump, in addition to his famous tweets, also knew how to use TV coverage by giving interviews and holding massive televised rallies while his opponent, Hillary Clinton, barely gave TV interviews.
Foreign Policy and Security
Both Trump and Modi advocate for a tougher foreign policy than their predecessors and a crackdown on illegal immigration. Specifically, Modi has taken a more aggressive stance against China, Pakistan, and Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration has also seen traction.
In his first 100 days in office alone, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 41,318 illegal aliens. Modi has also cracked down on illegal immigration from neighboring country Bangladesh into the northeastern state of Assam, which shares a border. India’s “detect-delete-deport” campaign has considered deporting approximately 20 million illegal Bangladeshis living in Assam.
Both Trump and Modi are also concerned with China’s rise to power and Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism throughout the world. China has also expanded its economic and military efforts in Pakistan and Kashmir.
The North Indian state of Kashmir, in particular, plays an important role as India and Pakistan are in disputes over it and China has crept its way there too. Further, the Pentagon predicted this month that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will likely run through the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK); a move that will likely amplify tension between India and Pakistan, which is a terror hotbed.
The BJP has also expressed it has a “zero tolerance” towards terrorism. They’ve ramped up the defense budget and taken on what has been described as a more “muscular approach” in their Kashmir policy. Trump and the Republican Party have also been more hawkish when battling terrorism and threats to civil society. Unlike the previous administration, Trump actually states the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” and has ramped up military and defense spending.
Trump’s executive order mandating a temporary restriction on visas for individuals traveling to the United States from 6 listed majority Muslim countries is also part of his effort to thwart the rise of extremism seen throughout the western world.
During their historic meeting on Monday at the White House, Trump and Modi agreed that their “top priority” is to “destroy radical Islamic terrorism” and to end terrorist “safe shelters, sanctuaries, and safe havens.”
Although the majority of Indians are Hindu, India is also home to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians and Jews. “To me, secularism means India first,” he said in an interview on Google Hangouts in 2012. “My India should stand foremost.”
In that same interview he added, “It is India which has taught secularism to the whole world in a real sense” and “We are the people who consider the entire world our own, our family. And so there’s no threat in secularism.”
One of the most powerful promises President Trump made on the campaign trail was that he would put “America First” during his time as commander in chief. Trump has made it clear that “America First” does not mean America alone. As leader of the free world, Trump has expressed his commitment to the belief that a stronger America will lead to a stronger world. The United States, a nation built on Judeo-Christian values, is also home to nearly every religion and race in the world, where people can practice free from persecution.
Trump won in large part by promising to “Make America Great Again,” and Modi did the same for his country by placing emphasis on India’s past success in the areas of trade, science, economics prior to British colonial rule, and pushing for a recovery from that time.
Government and the Private Sector
Both the BJP and Republican Party advocate for limited government and have pushed for government reform in addition to more privatization. Trump has pushed for cutting funding for some facets of government programs he and his advisers see as wasteful, such as cuts into SNAP (food stamps), CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), and SSDI (Disability Insurance), all government-sponsored entitlement programs.
Modi has also enacted cuts to certain welfare programs in the Indian subcontinent, prompting criticism from the left. Both men have pushed for less welfare spending and stood for stronger fiscal conservatism.
Trump and Modi also won by pushing for a more business-friendly environment and easing taxes.
Modi launched a “Make in India” campaign on September 24, 2014, to have his nation focus on job creation and enhancing skills in 25 sectors of India’s economy:
Automobiles, Automobile Components, Aviation, Biotechnology, Chemicals, Construction, Defense manufacturing, Electrical Machinery, Electronic systems, Food Processing, Information Technology and Business Process Management, Leather, Media and Entertainment, Mining, Oil and Gas, Pharmaceuticals, Ports and Shipping, Railways, Renewable Energy, Roads and Highways, Space and astronomy, Textiles and Garments, Thermal Power, Tourism and Hospitality, and Wellness
Trump signed a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order earlier this year to revive laws aimed at getting government agencies to buy more products made in America and to help boost small businesses. He has similarly stated he will bring manufacturing jobs, and other businesses that have been shipped overseas, back to the United States.
On Monday, German carmaker BMW announced that it is adding 1,000 new jobs to its manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The plant is BMW’s largest manufacturing facility in the United States.