General Mattis, the US Secretary of Defense, arrived in India on a two-day visit. This is the first visit by a high-ranking cabinet minister since trump took over as the president. The president has not visited India, though he has visited almost two dozen countries all over the world. He is planning a state visit to China but India does not figure on his horizon. The Indians are wary of Trump as he is an unpredictable commodity and Indians have noted that during the Doklam confrontation with China, the US kept an ominous silence and did not support India.

In addition, during his visit to the U.N., his speech talked about terrorism, Iran, and North Korea but there was no mention of Pakistan which the Indians accused of fomenting terror acts in Kashmir. Mattis thus has his work cut out and one wonders where the much-touted strategic relationship fostered by Obama is heading as Trump is not too enamored of India.

Mattis in India

Mattis will be in India for two days but his counterpart Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, the new defense minister has been on the job only for 19 days and she is hardly the person who can decide on any significant matter concerning defense ties or a partnership with the US. Mattis will probably go back empty-handed as the Indians are not too sure how reliable an ally the US will be in a confrontation with China and India's arch-enemy Pakistan.

The US policy under Trump has made North Korea its number one priority and he feels that only China can help him rein the North Koreans. Historically China has never sided with the USA on the Korean peninsula and one wonders how sure Trump is that China will help the USA. Most likely nothing will happen and North Korea will keep its nuclear arsenal.

Trump's overtures to Beijing may not yield the results he is expecting.

India and Russia

The Indians have had a long relationship with Russia, which for decades was India's foremost supplier of military hardware. Modi will be wary of jettisoning the Russian connection as he is not sure that Trump will back India in a confrontation with China.

Already the US signaled its neutrality in the border face-off between China And India and no statement was issued supporting India. The Americans also do not want to burn their bridges with Pakistan which they feel has an important role to play in Afghanistan. Though Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan, Trump chose to be silent about Pakistan's involvement in supporting the Haqqani faction which is opposed to the present Afghan government.

An empty visit

In such a scenario, the strategic relationship with India does not seem to be going forward. Mattis visit will perhaps achieve nothing.

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