by Chidanand Rajghatta

Geo-political alignment and strategic consonance between the US and India is proceeding apace, going by the phone call initiated by President Trump to Prime Minister Modi on Thursday.

The White House said in a read-out about the call that both leaders "pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region", and while "affirming President Trump's South Asia strategy, they reiterated their commitment to supporting Afghanistan's security and stability".

Two other regional issues (the situation in Maldives and Myanmar) appeared to be triggers for call, and the readout suggested the two sides agreed on common ground on both. "Both leaders expressed concern about the political crisis in (the) Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law," the White House said in the read-out. "They also exchanged views on Burma and ways to address the plight of the Rohingya refugees," it added.

Carrying on from where the Obama administration left off on the India relationship and enhancing the momentum, the Trump administration appears comfortable ceding a larger regional role to New Delhi amid periodic challenges from Beijing with its support to an increasingly feeble and unstable Islamabad.

The White House read-out seemed to pointedly refer to the "Indo-Pacific region", a formulation that is scoffed at by China, which sees itself as an Asia-Pacific power without an Indian role in East Asia even as it pushes into the Indian Ocean, which India sees as its sphere of influence.

In fact, the White House read-out went so far as to reveal that "President Trump and Prime Minister Modi then discussed further steps to ensure denuclearisation of North Korea", drawing India into a crisis the US has been trying to handle with surrounding powers China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

US recognition of India's primacy in the region, including in Afghanistan, is a cause of frustration for Pakistan and China, but the read-out makes it clear there is no rethink on Trump's South Asia strategy that includes holding Pakistan's feet to the fire for its support of terrorism.

The exchanges come just ahead of PM Modi's visit to Palestine — the first by an Indian PM — as New Delhi undertakes a feat that has won it many admirers: Managing antagonistic forces such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and Israel and Palestine.

Senior officials from the US and New Delhi will themselves be engaged shortly at the ministerial level. The read-out said Trump and Modi "agreed to strengthen security and economic cooperation as they look forward to the 2+2 ministerial dialogue between their defence and diplomatic officials in April".