Indo-U.S. ties get warmer after Modi’s visit
Ramping up Indo-US relations – Modi’s visit’s impact
Prime Minister Modi’s just-concluded U.S. tour has been seen as very different from similar trips by Indian Prime Ministers in the past. By even American standards, it was a high-octane performance that assured the American government, business leaders and the huge Indian diaspora that the Prime minister’s chair is now occupied by a person of both energy and vision. The Indian community in America, long frustrated by the corruption and inaction of the government in Delhi, Mod brought cheer and optimism.
During the five-day visit, India and the U.S. issued a vision document. Modi and Obama jointly wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post. Finally, a comprehensive A Joint Statement was issued that points to a healthy convergence of thoughts and ideas of the two heads of state. The bilateral ties look much stronger today than any time in the past.
Modi had a frenzied tour that included appearances with rock stars, meetings with corporate leaders, interaction with senators, lunch with the President and, most importantly, a rousing one-hour speech in Madison Square where a record Indian crowd gathered to listen to his speech rendered in Hindi. It was a highly successful Public Relations exercise.
Now, it is time to take a realistic look at the results achieved from this visit. The most conspicuous benefit has been the dispelling of mistrust that had impaired bilateral ties in the past one or two years. Modi is no longer a pariah in America. The stigma resulting from his suspected indirect role in the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims seems to have permanently erased. This is evident from the way he was so warmly received by a large section of the American establishment. Mr. Modi paid a symbolic visit to the Martin Luther King Memorial with Mr. Obama. It surely helped to indicate that both countries have decided not to allow events of the past not to cloud the vision for the future.
Secondly, U.S. companies, clearly frustrated by the labyrinth of regulatory and taxation laws, corruption and opacity of government functioning ion India, felt comforted by Modi’s clear signal that their investment will hereafter receive red carpet and fast-track welcome in India. The vision document, the joint op-ed, and the comprehensive 3,500-word Joint Statement underscore a rare unanimity of purpose in world politics and economics. This augurs well for the future. However, areas of concern are still there.
With regard to defense ties and energy sector cooperation, there has been some incremental progress, although much more was expected. On issues where the two countries have held divergent positions such as Nuclear power plant exports from America, membership of the NSG, Trade and WTO, the gap has not been bridged. The two countries have deferred negotiations, because these matters are too contentious to be sorted out during a short state visit.
The renewal of the strategic partnership, and reference to “joint and concerted efforts” to dismantle terror groups including al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqanis” do not indicate any great forward shift. The statements seem clearly evasive and couched in diplomatic jargon when it comes to outlining the commonality in the worldview of India and the U.S. China’s aggressive posturing in the region, particularly in the South China Sea, and the turmoil in Iraq and Syria were briefly touched upon. No indication was given as to how the two countries plan to act jointly in these matters.
On the most pressing global issue of the day – the emerging IS threat – the tone has been conspicuously muted with India distancing itself from the anti-IS military coalition. But, there was some visible progress on eight issues that include energy, health, space, women’s empowerment, trade, skills, strategy and security. However, there are miles to go before the actual fruit of this labour is available on the ground. It needs concerted action from the two governments.
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