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

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