Obama visit to lay new foundation for Indo-US relations
[ By Ranjeet Kumar
T] he decision of President Barack Obama to accept Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invite to be the Chief Guest at the Indian Republic Day has created a lot of excitement in diplomatic, strategic and business circles as the visit hopes to revive the sagging India-US relations after much fanfare seen in the aftermath of 2008 India-US civil nuclear cooperation. The nuclear accord promised the sky to US nuclear and defence companies. The defence trade relations did pick up hugely, as evident from US emerging as the leading defence exporter to India challenging the traditional rivals Russia and Israel, but the nuclear trade remained dormant and what pricked the US nuclear companies most was that other nuclear companies from France and Russia were taking advantage of the nuclear energy agreements facilitated by the Indo-US bonhomie.
The sensation created in diplomatic circles has been described as a sort of diplomatic coup for Narendra Modi, who within a very short span of five-and-a-half months of his rule, has met the US President thrice and also was hosted by the President in the White House in the last week of September this year. Since there is a bipartisan support for India in the US political and strategic arena, Obama’s decision has widely been noticed and welcomed both in India and in the United States.
The positive vibes emanating from the new Indian Government led by Modi and his moves to reinvigorate relations with Japan and Australia, the US allies has perhaps encouraged Obama to be a part of this bandwagon, which is a sign of significant emergence of new alliances and warming of relations between the democratic powers, previously described as estranged democracies. Now the two democracies have engaged intensively over last decade and deepened not only bilateral economic relations but also the defence and strategic relations which have been given new dimension and have been taken note of world over. Now President Obama’s visit to India will rekindle the world attention on Indo-US relations because of fast changing geostrategic landscape.
After the George Bush Administration pushed Indo-US relations to a new light by signing with India the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in 2008, there were very high expectations of a deeper strategic linkages between the two nations, especially in the defence sector. The United States has now become India’s top exporter of defence hardware, surpassing the traditional suppliers Russia and Israel, and the armed forces of the two countries are exercising together more than any other US partner.
This assumes significance in the face of an increasingly assertive China as US also wants India to become stronger so it can play an inportant role as a counterweight to a rising China in the wake of shifting balance of power. It is significant that the 2014 Republic Day parade was graced by none other than the Prime Minister of a pacifist power Japan, which will be followed up by the President of a superpower in the year 2015. During the Republic Day parade India showcases its military might, which includes the nuclear deterrence capabilities and long-range ballistic missiles. Interestingly US Administration, which till a decade-and-a-half ago, used to be concerned with India acquiring these defence systems, but the times have changed and the US President will find himself admiring the Indian military might, which of course will include the US-made military platforms like the Globemaster and Super Hercules transport aircraft.
The United States’ support to India in military arena means a lot to Indian neighbours and the President’s visit to New Delhi will reaffirm the evolving strategic partnership, which will be closely watched by China and Pakistan. The Obama visit to India, the first by a US President on the eve of Indian Republic Day and the first by a US President to travel to India second time in his tenure will definitely add new content to India-US relations as both the nations need each other in the fast changing strategic scenario and convergence of interests in many arena, from Afghanistan to West Asia to Asia-Pacific. This is why Prime Minister Modi has devoted considerable amount of time to revive India’s foreign relations, which is also aimed at promoting India as an attractive destination for foreign investment. India-US economic relations have climbed to a new high of around $100 billion and the two countries aim to take this to the level of $500 billion by the end of this decade. This can only be possible if the leaders of the two countries take the relations to a new level.
Strategic analysts are of the opinion that the Obama visit will add a new chapter to Indo-US relations which will have wider implications not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but it will change the way the world looks at India. The rising expectations from India’s new leader to deliver in reforming drastically the way India deals with the investors at the ground level. The world is no longer going to believe mere words and wants to see action on the ground, hence
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with president Barack Obama, after press state
ment at the White House in Washington DC on September 30, 2014