The chief guest

On the strate­gic and se­cu­rity is­sues that are likely to be on the agenda, the US would like to in­cor­po­rate In­dia into her broader plan and as­sign her a larger role to achieve sta­bil­ity through a bal­ance of power in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion pri­mar­ily to neu

SP's MAI - - MILITARY VIEWPOINT -

Af­ter the high pro­file and im­mensely suc­cess­ful visit of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to the United States in Septem­ber last year, ac­cep­tance of his in­vi­ta­tion by the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent to be the Chief Guest at the Repub­lic Day pa­rade in New Delhi on Jan­uary 26, 2015, is be­ing seen as an­other ma­jor diplo­matic coup for the In­dian lead­er­ship. Barack Obama will be the first ever Amer­i­can head of state to be given this hon­our. Be­sides, this will be his sec­ond visit to In­dia dur­ing his ten­ure as the Pres­i­dent, in fact the only US Pres­i­dent to do so. While ex­pec­ta­tions from the forth­com­ing visit are bound to run high, there is also skep­ti­cism in some quar­ters pri­mar­ily as the rul­ing party in the US has lost ma­jor­ity in both houses of Congress in Novem­ber last year. Obama there­fore is be­ing seen as noth­ing more than ‘lame duck Pres­i­dent’ for the rest of his term that ends in Jan­uary 2017.

Af­ter a se­ries of hic­cups since the fa­mous civil nu­clear deal, called the ‘123 Agree­ment’, ini­ti­ated jointly nearly a decade ago by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Man­mo­han Singh and Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush and rat­i­fied in 2008, Indo-US re­la­tions have been af­flicted with di­vi­sive is­sues and in fact oc­ca­sion­ally ap­peared to be com­pletely derailed. How­ever, with the NDA Gov­ern­ment com­ing into power in May last year, bi­lat­eral ties be­tween the US and In­dia ap­pear to get­ting back on track. And there is hope amongst the ma­jor­ity that the forth­com­ing visit of the US Pres­i­dent will be the be­gin­ning of a new chap­ter in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two na­tions and pro­pel the strate­gic part­ner­ship crafted ear­lier to a new level.

What then are the pos­si­bil­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties the forth­com­ing visit has to of­fer? First and fore­most, the ef­fort of the US Pres­i­dent would be to break the stale­mate on the nu­clear li­a­bil­ity law that would pave the way for US com­pa­nies to ex­ploit the op­por­tu­ni­ties la­tent in the Indo-US civil nu­clear deal. For In­dia too, this is im­por­tant in view of her ever-grow­ing en­ergy needs. Pur­su­ing the same agenda, In­dia would like some progress on the sup­ply of LNG and shale gas sup­plies from the US. As for co­op­er­a­tion in the field of de­fence, the decade-old part­ner­ship in this field that has been weak­ened con­sid­er­ably, may be re­newed and given a fresh lease of life. Rais­ing the cap on for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in In­dia could also fig­ure promi­nently on the agenda.

In or­der to at­tract in­vest­ments from the United States, the In­dian side would leave no stone un­turned to re­as­sure the US Pres­i­dent about the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the Modi Gov­ern­ment to make it eas­ier for for­eign com­pa­nies to con­duct busi­ness in In­dia es­pe­cially in the large cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive seg­ments of the in­dus­try such as sur­face trans­porta­tion as well as in de­fence pro­duc­tion with trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy. Pres­i­dent Obama may per­son­ally in­ter­act with the lead­ing busi­ness houses in In­dia. Some progress on res­o­lu­tion of is­sues re­gard­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights regimes of both the na­tions may also be ex­pected.

On the strate­gic and se­cu­rity is­sues that are likely to be on the agenda, the US would like to in­cor­po­rate In­dia into her broader plan and as­sign her a larger role to achieve sta­bil­ity through a bal­ance of power in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion pri­mar­ily to neu­tralise the grow­ing in­flu­ence of China. The two na­tions are likely to re-eval­u­ate the ris­ing men­ace of ter­ror­ism from Pak­istan and Afghanistan es­pe­cially post with­drawal of US forces from the re­gion, way for­ward for the global war on ter­ror­ism and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pak­istan and the US es­pe­cially its fi­nan­cial sup­port to the for­mer. Also on the agenda could be the rise of ISIS and the en­su­ing tur­moil in the Mid­dle East and its im­pact on In­dia in the long run.

While the na­tion will anx­iously look for­ward to pos­i­tive out­comes from the visit, in­ter­nal se­cu­rity dur­ing this pe­riod would be of se­ri­ous con­cern. Apart from the threat to per­sonal se­cu­rity to both the lead­ers, there is a real pos­si­bil­ity of ter­ror­ist at­tacks spon­sored from across the bor­der to dis­rupt the visit and scut­tle the dia­logue. As per the top ech­e­lons of the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship in Jammu & Kash­mir, ter­ror­ists may adopt the Pe­shawar model and even tar­get schools in In­dia. The In­dian se­cu­rity estab­lish­ment will be con­fronted with se­ri­ous chal­lenges dur­ing the visit.

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