'Beyond bilateral': Modi tickles Trump

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told President Donald Trump that the cooperation between India and the US "can" rise "beyond bilateral" ties, tantalising Washington that has launched a charm offensive to woo New Delhi into its corner.

"The cooperation between India and US can rise beyond bilateral cooperation and both countries can work for the future of Asia and the world.... We are moving ahead together on many issues," Modi told Trump in his opening remarks at a meeting on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Manila.

Modi, fighting criticism at home for his handling of the economy, underscored that Trump had spoken "highly" of India during his trips and assured the President that India would try to "live up to the expectations" of the US and the world.

"Wherever President Trump has gone and wherever he got an opportunity to talk about India, he spoke very highly about India. He expressed optimism about India and I am assuring that the expectation the world has, the expectation the US has, India has been trying to live up to that expectation and will continue to do it," Modi said.

Trump repeated that "good news (was) coming out of India".

In recent weeks, the US has made it clear that its interests in India are more regional than bilateral. The US wants India to be engaged more deeply in its plans of setting up a quadrilateral of leading democracies also involving Japan and Australia in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China's influence.

New Delhi has yet to give a firm commitment. At a meeting on Sunday, India charted its own course, steering clear of comments such as "rules-based order" and "freedom of navigation" - diplomatese for China's policy in the South China Sea.

Modi and Trump appeared to have discussed the issue. Foreign secretary S. Jaishankar described the talks between Modi and Trump as "very expansive", saying they carried out a "broad review" of the strategic landscape in Asia.

Beijing on Monday reacted to Sunday's quadrilateral meeting, saying: "The relevant proposals should be open and inclusive and conducive to win-win cooperation, and should avoid politicising or excluding relevant parties''.


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