Prime Min­is­ter’s straight talk in Amer­ica

SP's MAI - - SPECIAL FEATURE - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s visit to the United Na­tions and the United States ap­par­ently is the best any In­dian Prime Min­is­ter has had, hall­marks be­ing some plain talk­ing and re­vival of the Indo-US strate­gic part­ner­ship. Crit­ics have been hol­ler­ing about lack of a strate­gic agenda though ob­vi­ously all mat­ters dis­cussed be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama would ob­vi­ously not come to light.

The fact that the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor (NSA) did not re­turn with the Prime Min­is­ter and has stayed back in the US for nec­es­sary follow-up is in­dica­tive of this. Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif’s re­newed ef­fort to in­ter­na­tion­alise the Kashmir is­sue earned a sharp re­buke from Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who told the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly (UNGA) that it was a point­less ex­er­cise when there were so many more press­ing is­sues fac­ing the re­gion and the world, plus telling Nawaz Sharif “Rais­ing it [Kashmir is­sue] at UN won’t re­solve bi­lat­eral is­sues.” At the same time he stated he was pre­pared to en­gage in a se­ri­ous bi­lat­eral di­a­logue with Pak­istan in a peace­ful at­mos­phere, with­out the shadow of ter­ror­ism, to pro­mote friend­ship and co­op­er­a­tion.

Modi’s ad­dress to UNGA cov­ered a num­ber of sub­jects such as ter­ror­ism, in­clud­ing its resur­gence in West Asia, re­forms of the United Na­tions, in­clud­ing the UNSC, and the need for a more in­clu­sive global de­vel­op­ment. With re­spect to In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood, he em­pha­sised that In­dia de­sired a peace­ful and sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment for its de­vel­op­ment, say­ing “A na­tion’s des­tiny is linked to its neigh­bour­hood. That is why my gov­ern­ment has placed the high­est pri­or­ity on ad­vanc­ing friend­ship and co­op­er­a­tion with her neigh­bours.” De­scrib­ing the present as “a time of great flux and change” he drew at­ten­tion to the fact that the world was wit­ness­ing ten­sions and tur­moil on a scale rarely seen in re­cent his­tory and de­spite no ma­jor wars ab­sence of real peace and un­cer­tainty about the fu­ture. He wel­comed ef­forts to com­bat ter­ror­ism’s resur­gence in West Asia which was af­fect­ing coun­tries near and far and ex­horted UN should en­sure peace, sta­bil­ity and or­der in the outer space and cy­ber space, en­sur­ing all coun­tries ob­serve in­ter­na­tional rules and norms.

He talked of con­cerns about mar­itime safety in Asia-Pa­cific, threat of Europe fac­ing new di­vi­sion, ter­ror­ism and health cri­sis in West and South Asia and Africa, and pro­posed an In­ter­na­tional Yoga Day. With re­spect to re­forms of the UNSC, mak­ing a strong pitch for In­dia to be part of UNSC, Modi said, “In­sti­tu­tions that re­flect the im­per­a­tives of

the 20th cen­tury won’t be ef­fec­tive in the 21st. It would face the risk of ir­rel­e­vance and we will face the risk of con­tin­u­ing tur­bu­lence with no one ca­pa­ble of ad­dress­ing it.” Sig­nif­i­cantly, he also stated that there can’t be any ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ter­ror­ists; in­di­rect ref­er­ence to the US pol­icy.

Prior to Modi’s de­par­ture for the US, schol­ars at home and abroad were busy pen­ning down what should be his agenda, rec­om­mend­ing: fast chang­ing dy­namic of Asia and Indo-Pa­cific hav­ing turned In­dia into a ‘swing state’ in the global power game with both Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jimp­ing and Obama woo­ing Modi, In­dia should de­rive max­i­mum mileage from the sit­u­a­tion since to dom­i­nate the Asian stage both China and US need In­dian support; im­por­tant that both In­dia and US have an hon­est con­ver­sa­tion about the kind of re­la­tion­ship they seek; ex­plore pos­si­bil­ity of US part­ner­ing de­vel­op­ment of In­dia’s next-gen­er­a­tion air­craft car­rier, sell In­dia un­con­ven­tional oil and gas, per­mit US com­pa­nies to use In­dian space launch ser­vices, ac­cel­er­ate US ef­forts to in­te­grate In­dia into the mul­ti­lat­eral non-pro­lif­er­a­tion regimes, deepen mean­ing­ful cy­ber-de­fence co­op­er­a­tion with In­dia, follow-up on projects sub­sumed by the In­dia-US De­fence Trade and Tech­nol­ogy Ini­tia­tive (DTTI), over­com­ing im­passe over the nu­clear li­a­bil­ity law and sal­vaging the Doha round of global trade talks or ad­vanc­ing the common quest for mit­i­gat­ing cli­mate change etc; re­ju­ve­nate the con­cept of Indo-US part­ner­ship set­ting aims of both sides in a na­tional as well as in­ter­na­tional con­text and how to what de­gree they can co­op­er­ate.

While Modi made a com­mand­ing bond with In­dian-Americans and an­nounced im­me­di­ate con­ces­sions for them, his op-ed in the Wash­ing­ton Post high­lighted: high tide of hope for change in In­dia— a young na­tion with 800 mil­lion peo­ple un­der age 35, In­dia is brim­ming with op­ti­mism and con­fi­dence; un­leash­ing those at­tributes will be pur­sued by elim­i­nat­ing un­nec­es­sary laws and reg­u­la­tions, mak­ing bu­reau­cratic pro­cesses eas­ier and shorter, and en­sur­ing trans­parency, re­spon­sive­ness and ac­count­abil­ity of gov­ern­ment; cre­ate world-class in­fra­struc­ture that In­dia badly needs to ac­cel­er­ate growth and meet peo­ple’s ba­sic needs; make ci­ties and towns hab­it­able, sus­tain­able and smart; make vil­lages en­gines of eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion; “Make in In­dia” is our com­mit­ment—and an invitation to all—to turn In­dia into a new global man­u­fac­tur­ing hub; in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment in­cludes skills ed­u­ca­tion, op­por­tu­nity, safety, dig­nity and rights for all es­pe­cially women, bank ac­count for ev­ery In­dian, af­ford­able health care within ev­ery­one’s reach, san­i­ta­tion for all by 2019, house for all by 2022; elec­tric­ity for ev­ery house­hold and con­nec­tiv­ity to ev­ery vil­lage; fu­sion of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion to trans­form gov­er­nance, em­power peo­ple, pro­vide af­ford­able so­lu­tions for so­ci­etal chal­lenges and reach peo­ple in unimag­in­able ways; In­dia will pur­sue its dreams in part­ner­ship with our in­ter­na­tional friends; US is our nat­u­ral global part­ner. In­dia and the US em­body the en­dur­ing and univer­sal rel­e­vance of their shared val­ues, and In­dia and the US have a fun­da­men­tal stake in each other’s suc­cess for the sake of our val­ues and our many shared in­ter­ests.

Then was the joint Modi-Obama op-ed in Wash­ing­ton Post a pre­lude to of­fi­cial dis­cus­sion be­tween Modi and Obama, some­thing never done ear­lier, high­lights of which are: com­mit­ment to democ­racy, lib­erty, di­ver­sity, en­ter­prise; bound by common val­ues and mu­tual in­ter­ests, nat­u­ral and unique part­ner­ship can help shape in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity and peace for years to come; ties rooted in the shared de­sire for jus­tice and equal­ity—Swami Vivekananda pre­sented Hin­duism as a world re­li­gion at the 1893 World’s Par­lia­ment of Re­li­gions in Chicago, Martin Luther King Jr. sought to end dis­crimi-

The ma­jor ir­ri­tant in Indo-US re­la­tion­ship has al­ways been Amer­ica’s in­tran­si­gence to Pak­istan’s gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ism against In­dia or at best cos­metic ac­tions

na­tion and prej­u­dice against African Americans in­spired by Ma­hatma Gandhi’s non­vi­o­lent teach­ings while Gandhi drew upon the writ­ings of Henry David Thoreau; food pro­duc­tion in­creases of the Green Revo­lu­tion and the In­dian In­sti­tutes of Tech­nol­ogy are among many prod­ucts of col­lab­o­ra­tion; bi­lat­eral col­lab­o­ra­tion spans fed­eral, state, lo­cal lev­els, mil­i­tary, pri­vate sec­tors and civil so­ci­ety; space pro­grammes en­gage in un­prece­dented ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion, lead­ing us from Earth to Mars; true po­ten­tial of our re­la­tion­ship has yet to be fully re­alised—time to set a new agenda that re­al­izes con­crete ben­e­fits for cit­i­zens.

The Vi­sion State­ment for the US-In­dia Strate­gic Part­ner­ship “Chalein Saath Saath: For­ward We Go” was the crown­ing feat of Modi’s visit, ma­jor points of which are: cur­rents of kin­ship and com­merce, schol­ar­ship and sci­ence tie our coun­tries to­gether al­low­ing to rise above dif­fer­ences by main­tain­ing long-term per­spec­tive; co­op­er­a­tion for­ti­fies a re­la­tion­ship that matches in­nu­mer­able ties be­tween peo­ples pro­duc­ing works of art and mu­sic, cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy and re­sponse to cri­sis; part­ner­ship joint en­deav­our for pros­per­ity and peace; to­gether, we will com­bat ter­ror­ist threats, re­spond ex­pe­di­tiously to hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ters and crises, pre­vent spread of WMDs and re­main com­mit­ted to re­duce salience of nu­clear weapons while pro­mot­ing univer­sal, ver­i­fi­able, and non-dis­crim­i­na­tory nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment; support open and in­clu­sive rules-based global or­der, in which In­dia as­sumes greater mul­ti­lat­eral re­spon­si­bil­ity, in­clud­ing in a re­formed UNSC; join to­gether to mit­i­gate im­pact of cli­mate change; part­ner to en­sure both coun­tries have af­ford­able, clean, re­li­able, and di­verse sources of en­ergy, in­clud­ing ef­forts to bring Amer­i­can-ori­gin nu­clear power tech­nolo­gies to In­dia; en­sure eco­nomic growth in both coun­tries to bet­ter liveli­hoods and wel­fare for all in­clud­ing value ed­u­ca­tion and skills; joint re­search and col­lab­o­ra­tion in ev­ery as­pect-rang­ing from par­ti­cles of cre­ation to outer space, pro­duc­ing bound­less in­no­va­tion and high tech­nol­ogy col­lab­o­ra­tion; open mar­kets, fair and trans­par­ent prac­tices in trade in goods and ser­vices; col­lab­o­ra­tion in tack­ling in­fec­tious dis­eases, elim­i­nate ma­ter­nal and child deaths, erad­i­cate poverty and em­pow­er­ment of women in a se­cure en­vi­ron­ment; ex­pand and deepen strate­gic part­ner­ship in or­der to har­ness the in­her­ent po­ten­tial of two democ­ra­cies and bur­geon­ing ties be­tween our peo­ple, economies, and busi­nesses, seek­ing re­li­able and en­dur­ing friend­ship that bol­sters se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity, con­tribut­ing to global econ­omy, and ad­vanc­ing peace and pros­per­ity through­out the world, and; that this trans­for­ma­tive re­la­tion­ship as trusted part­ners in the 21st cen­tury will be a model for the rest of the world.

On bal­ance, it may be sur­mised that Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s speech at UNGA con­veyed the mes­sage from In­dia holis­ti­cally in forth­right man­ner. The Modi-Obama and other meet­ings in the US have been fruit­ful and touched the cords at per­sonal lev­els as well. The Indo-US strate­gic part­ner­ship has been re-en­er­gised but that for the time be­ing is only at the ‘the­o­ret­i­cal’ level. It is the follow-up what mat­ters. The ma­jor ir­ri­tant in Indo-US re­la­tion­ship has al­ways been Amer­ica’s in­tran­si­gence to Pak­istan’s gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ism against In­dia or at best cos­metic ac­tions. In ad­di­tion has been the mas­sive arm­ing of Pak­istan in­clud­ing F-16s on pre­text of CT. Is that go­ing to change? US also has past record of giv­ing In­dia dated de­fence tech­nolo­gies be­sides putting sanc­tions on var­i­ous pre­texts. In the lat­ter con­text, it would be pru­dent for In­dia to re­main well di­ver­si­fied in mat­ters of de­fence im­ports. Ul­ti­mately only time will tell in what man­ner the ‘re-en­er­gised’ Indo-US Strate­gic Part­ner­ship will play out.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama wel­comes Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi

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