Visit of President Obama – and beyond
[ By Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd) ]
It can safely be said that the recent visit by President Barack Obama to India has taken the Indo-US strategic partnership to a level never achieved earlier. It is not only because he was the first US President as Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade, but because the shared vision and the agreements between the two giant democracies were unprecedented. The nuclear deal lying in cold storage for more than six years was galvanised, signed and sealed. President Obama used his executive powers to waive the issue raised from the US side to track the nuclear material being provided. The second issue of nuclear liability that India wanted was resolved by going in for insurers offering ` 750 crore capacity for the nuclear pool, with rest to be footed by the government; both operators and suppliers would be provided as cover against associated risks. The proposed nuclear risk pool that will be set up in India will have five government-owned insurance companies (General Insurance Corporation of India, New India Assurance, Oriental India Insurance, National Insurance and United India Insurance) providing half the capacity for the ` 1,500-crore pool. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his statement at the joint press interaction with President Obama, said the civil nuclear agreement was the centrepiece of the India-US transformed relationship, demonstrating new trust. That all this was possible because of the bonhomie between the two leaders and because of the initiative taken by Prime Minister Modi was very obvious.
President Obama stated that relationship with India is important to the US in the 21st century and that India’s rise was in the US interest. Highlights of the joint statement issues on January 25 relating to defence and security were: both countries pledged to continue to enhance cooperation across the spectrum of human endeavour to better their citizens’ lives and that of the global community; endorsement of a new Indio-US Delhi Declaration of Friendship, building on their joint September 30 Vision Statement; recognising roles both countries play in promoting peace, prosperity, stability and security in Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region (IOR) – announcing a Joint Strategic Vision to guide their engagement in the region; joint conduct of NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission; joint Defence Policy Group and subgroups to pursue stronger and expanded bilateral defence cooperation; signing of the India-US Statement of Guiding Principles on Triangular Cooperation for Global Development; breakthrough on issues relating to the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; US-India Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation for advanced cooperation; MoU between Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd. and the Export-Import Bank of the US, making available up to $1 billion for expanded cooperation; India-US Political Military Dialogue to exchange perspectives on bilateral strategic and regional issues; launch of Infrastructure Collaboration Platform to promote enhanced market access and financing; expert exchange on counter-IED strate- gies and technologies; convening of ICT Working Group and signing of Joint Declaration of Intent to advance implementation of the Digital India programme; Knowledge Partnership in defence studies; conclusion of two project annexes between the India’s Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology, US Department of Energy to discover science cooperation in particle accelerator and high energy physics; MoU to enhance cooperation to combat money laundering; finalisation of the 2015 Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship; signing of the India-US Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) Agreement to facilitate cooperation in defence R&D; continuing bilateral engagement on the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) to pursue co-production and codevelopment of four pathfinder projects including sharing aircraft carrier technology and design, and explore cooperation on development of jet engine technology, and deepen cooperation in maritime security and continue US-India collaboration in hydrology and water studies, and monsoon modeling.
Significantly, both leaders reaffirmed the need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as LeT, JeM, D Company and the Haqqani Network, agreeing to continue efforts through the Homeland Security Dialogue and the USIndia Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism. The US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region among other things calls for: promoting accelerated infrastructure connectivity and economic development to link South, South East and Central Asia including enhancing energy transmission, encouraging free trade and greater people-topeople linkages; affirm importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea; call on all parties to avoid the threat or use of force and pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the UNCLOS, and; resolve to oppose terrorism, piracy and proliferation of WMDs within or from the region.
That Pakistan appears rattled and China concerned with the developments during the visit of President Obama to India is obvious. Nawaz Sharif has reportedly hurriedly dispatched a letter to Prime Minister Modi stating Pakistan wants good relations with India, seeking similar dialogue with Prime Minister Modi. But then, it is well known that the power is not with Nawaz Sharif but his military. The state policy of terrorism has brought Pakistan to such mess that by May 2014 it was already under cumulative debt to IMF and others to the tune of $90 billion, the interest repayment alone amounts to $22,000 per hour or $5,50,000 per day. The new Transformation Indo-US Strategic Cooperation Partnership is sure to facilitate ‘Make in India’ in the defence industry and elevate India’s defence potential. It is to be seen if Pakistan will mend her ways, give up the proxy war for her own betterment of Pakistan and the region or choose to heighten it cashing on withdrawal of Af-Pak from the region.