Rick Stevens / Reuters India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, November 17, 2014.

A Trump and Modi Bromance?

Not So Fast

With Donald Trump now ensconced in the White House, self-styled, anti-establishment populists are in charge of the world’s two largest democracies: India and the United States. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, believes that this is no coincidence but rather proof of a global "center-right revolt," And in 2014, as chairman of Breitbart News, Bannon singled out that year’s election of India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, as an early indicator.

After Trump promised to be a “true friend” to India and praised Modi during the campaign, some commentators claimed to see a "bromance" on the horizon. Since Trump officially became president, the two men have spoken, and the Indian prime minister even tweeted about their “warm conversation.” There have also been meetings between key foreign policy and security officials from both sides. And, according to Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, foreign editor of India’s Hindustan Times, Trump administration officials have been telling their Indian counterparts that they are under “orders that this relationship must be good.” 

Their boss has not spelled out exactly why he is so keen on India, although it is worth noting that there are five Trump Tower projects already underway in India making it one of the company’s biggest investments outside North America. Arguably, Trump is simply expressing his signature enthusiasm for a relationship that has been on an upward trajectory ever since former President George W. Bush signed a landmark nuclear cooperation deal with India. The mutual suspicions of the Cold War era have subsided as the interests of the two democracies have increasingly aligned over issues, such as confronting China and combating terrorism. India has also opened up its fast-growing economy to outside investment. One sign of the shift is a jump in the United States’ arms sales to India, both in quantity and sophistication—it is increasingly supplanting Russia as India’s key weapons supplier. 

Yet beyond the overlapping interests, there are also intriguing similarities between the two leaders’ styles,

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