BARACK Hussein Obama, the President of USA paid his first State visit to India from November 6-8 which he himself called his longest stay as the President in any country.
President Obama smarting under an electoral defeat of November 2 came to India on economic mission of job hunting for Americans as one of his goals and on November 6 succeeded in charming ‘India corporate’ to place orders worth about US $ 15 billion on American corporations which would create over 53,000 new jobs in the USA.
It has rightly been recognised that it is no more one way traffic, American companies are shipping jobs to India (outsourcing) and Indian companies too are creating new jobs in America. “India is not in the business of stealing jobs from the US… outsourcing (work to India) has helped improve the productive capacity and productivity of America,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference with visiting US President Barack Obama at Hyderabad House.
Indian ministers had at one stage made a lot of fuss on US raising visa fees for H1B working visa but failed to gain anything on this matter during this Presidential visit.
India is the largest dynamic democracy in the world and the USA is the strongest one, both with open societies and free press. So these two are and should have been the natural partners in peace and progress. Sky is the limit for developing bilateral relations between the two dynamic democracies and this time right foundations have been laid for the future and on many fronts good progress were also made except on J & K.
Perusal of the Joint Statement shows that the Manmohan Singh Government clearly failed to get any direct endorsement of the USA that the J&K is an integral part of India. It may be recalled that Ms. Robin Rafael, an Assistant Secretary in the Bill Clinton administration had declared that it was the US position that the entire State of J&K was disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Americans do not publicly air this position but so far have not abandoned it either. It may be noted that President Obama did not articulate his old views about J&K while in India. Rather he said that the US shall not impose itself on India and Pakistan bilateral matters and that it was for the two countries to resolve Kashmir matter bilaterally.
The Manmohan Singh government definitely achieved a great diplomatic success when President Obama conveyed American support for India being made a permanent member of expanded UN Security Council. But this support has come with a rider that with increased responsibility India will have to play more actively in promoting non proliferation and democracy abroad.
But in the euphoria it should not be forgotten that the President Obama has not clarified whether in his vision India would be permanent member of expanded Security Council with or without veto power as some aspirant countries (not India) have agreed to become permanent members without veto power or with diluted veto power.
It may be recalled that unemployment in USA is running over 10 per cent. And in November 2, 2010 election strength of the President’s Democratic Party in the House of Representatives came down by 68 to 188 losing majority in this House to the Republican Party, 243 seats. In the Senate the Democratic Party lost six seats which went to the Republican Party. This number is the highest of any House victory for a single party since 1948, and the highest of any midterm election since 1938.
The pace of trade between the United States and India is accelerating. Between 2002 and 2009, US goods exported to India quadrupled, growing from $4.1 billion to more than $16.4 billion. Through the first eight months of 2010, US merchandise exports to India totalled $ 12.7 billion, up by 18 per cent from the same period in 2009. With economic growth estimates at about 9.7 per cent in 2010, India is a key market for the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double US exports in five years.
The US services exports to India more than tripled over the past several years, increasing from $3.3 billion in 2002 to more than $10.5 billion in 2008. The rapid growth in these exports has been supported by increased FDI from India to the United States and the growing merchandise trade relationship between the two countries.
In 2008, the largest US service export category to India was the travel sector at $3.0 billion. Other major categories included education services ($2.7 billion) and business, professional and technical services ($1.1 billion). Indian students are now the largest group of foreign students within the United States and represent a major growth market for American institutions of education.
The US economy is suffering so it was necessary for the USA not only to seek better market access but also to increase list of exportable items from the USA. Seen in this light the US decision to open up its market for dual use technology and items to India is understandable. It is a courageous decision of the Obama administration as economy got better of Obama a non-proliferation Ayatollah in the USA.
In the joint press statement the USA has reiterated its commitment to ratify the CTBT. Various formulations agreed to by the Manmohan Singh Government in the joint press statement, etc show that the UPA Government is slowly but steadily pushing India towards signing NPT and CTBT.
In the joint press statement India has assured the USA to ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation to facilitate trade in civil nuclear reactors.
President Obama made many official statements, substantive as well as placatory which would go a long way to improve public atmospherics in India towards the USA and contents and depth of bilateral relations as he had done during Prime Minister’s visit to the USA.
Addressing the Parliament Obama said: “For in Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged. And it is my firm belief that the relationship between the United States and India-bound by our shared interests and values-will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. This is the partnership I have come here to build. This is the vision that our nations can realise together.”
The joint press statement also says: “The two leaders reaffirmed that India-U.S. strategic partnership is indispensable not only for their two countries but also for global stability and prosperity in the 21st century. To that end, President Obama welcomed India’s emergence as a major regional and global power and affirmed his country’s interest in India’s rise, its economic prosperity, and its security.”
“The United States welcomes, in particular, India’s leadership in expanding prosperity and security across the region. The two leaders agreed to deepen existing regular strategic consultations on developments in East Asia, and decided to expand and intensify their strategic consultations to cover regional and global issues of mutual interest, including Central and West Asia.”
On Afghanistan in teeth of opposition by Pakistan the Prime minister succeeded in retaining US support for India’s role in developmental projects there but failed to seek US support for enhancement of role of India in capacity building of Afghan military. The joint statement says: “The two sides committed to intensify consultation, cooperation and coordination to promote a stable, democratic, prosperous, and independent Afghanistan. President Obama appreciated India’s enormous contribution to Afghanistan’s development and welcomed enhanced Indian assistance that will help Afghanistan achieve self-sufficiency. In addition to their own independent assistance programmes in Afghanistan, the two sides resolved to pursue joint development projects with the Afghan Government in capacity building, agriculture and women’s empowerment.”
Prime Minister succeeded in enlisting support of visiting President against terrorism emanating from Pakistan territory but one does not know how sincere the US will be to enforce these. The joint statement boldly states: “They reiterated that success in Afghanistan and regional and global security require elimination of safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Condemning terrorism in all its forms, the two sides agreed that all terrorist networks, including Lashkar e-Toiba, must be defeated and called for Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Building upon the Counter Terrorism Initiative signed in July 2010; the two leaders announced a new Homeland Security Dialogue between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security and agreed to further deepen operational cooperation, counter-terrorism technology transfers and capacity building.”
But the Headley saga shows that notwithstanding plethora of such understandings at the highest levels of the two governments, success will come only if there is better understanding at field level between diplomatic mission staff and host intelligence.
On defence and military cooperation which started during the Vajpayee era there was positive development. The joint statement reads; “The transformation in India-US defence cooperation in recent years has strengthened mutual understanding on regional peace and stability, enhanced both countries’ respective capacities to meet humanitarian and other challenges such as terrorism and piracy, and contributed to the development of the strategic partnership between India and the United States. The two Governments resolved to further strengthen defence cooperation, including through security dialogue, exercises, and promoting trade and collaboration in defence equipment and technology. President Obama welcomed India’s decision to purchase US high-technology defence items, which reflects our strengthening bilateral defence relations and will contribute to creating jobs in the United States.”
Other areas of cooperation include education, green technology, clean energy, civil nuclear energy, agriculture, trade, WTO, health etc. Following six agreements were also signed during this visit:
(1) India-US agreement to set up a joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre. It will be backed by 50 million dollars by both sides over five years and work to complete joint research in solar, biofuels and energy efficiency. (2) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership. US will cooperate in India’s plans for a nuclear centre, to promote nuclear security and address threats of nuclear terrorism. (3) MoU to establish an India-US Energy Cooperation Programme. It will mobilise private sector expertise and resources to address clean energy-related issues in India and the US. (4) Agreement on technical cooperation to study India’s annual monsoon rains, Cooperation on weather forecasting for India’s crucial annual monsoon. (5) MoU between India and the US on shale gas resources which will see US technology used to assess shale gas resources in India. (6) MoU on establishing and operating a Global Disease Detection Centre in India which will set up a laboratory in New Delhi designed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
(The writer belongs to the 1971 batch of Indian Foreign Service. Contact [email protected])