The India-US ‘love fest’
IT might seem odd that the United States and India haven’t always gotten along very well. For decades after its independence from Britain following World War II, India was guided by a policy of nonalignment, pledging itself to neither the US nor the Russian side of the cold war, suspicious of both. US-Indian relations would warm and cool over the years, but the countries were never close. Now the reasons for India to keep at arm’s length from America have largely dissipated and the mutual advantages of ever-tighter ties keep growing.
So when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with President Obama in Washington June 7, and to a joint session of the US Congress June 8, it prompted at least one observer to call the occasion nothing less than a mutual “love fest.” Mr. Modi was doing the wooing, and the US leaders seemed to like what they heard. Modi, who comes not from India’s elite but who rose out of poverty, was swept into office in 2014 on a campaign promising political reforms and economic modernisation. He realizes he needs American investment and technology to keep India’s fastgrowing economy strong. He also is eying a huge economic rival in China to the east and terrorism in Afghanistan to the west. In his speech to Congress Modi mentioned admiration for American icons Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., and spoke of the honour he felt by being invited to speak in “This temple of democracy [that] has encouraged and empowered other democracies the world over.” Modi faces a tall task to deliver on his promise to vastly improve the lives of India’s millions of impoverished people – many of whom still lack access to basic sanitation or electricity – during his five-year term of office. The US sees a rising partner for trade, an ally in fighting terrorism, and a counterweight to Chinese influence in Asia. As two of the top carbonemitting countries in the world, the US and India are pledging to work together to reduce emissions that cause climate change. “For us in India, to live in harmony with mother earth is part of our ancient belief,” Modi told the gathered members of Congress. With the world map dotted with “hot spots” and crises, closer ties for these “natural allies” is welcome news. It’s a relationship that can benefit both countries – and the world. — The Christian Science Monitor