Intro: The Obama administration is keen to revive ties since Modi’s election in May. Both the countries seek to patch up their differences and boost their economic relationship.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to the United States (US) in September 2014 holds great significance to India and the US. The new right wing political dispensation in New Delhi has found praise and support to strengthen ties with the (US). Much of this can be extrapolated in a recent statement made by US Foreign Secretary John Kerry who said, “Without doubt, it is one of the most significant partnerships in US foreign policy” and added, “There are fewer relationships that will be as vital in the 21st century as our growing ties with India and its people…Of all, the most critical global challenges that we face, India really has a central role to play. And that means that Washington is going to be looking to New Delhi not only for cooperation, but increasingly for innovation, for regional leadership… India's growing significance has been clear to many of us for some time now.”
|What will mark a turn of new leaf in the ties of the two countries is the clarity on many issues that have hitherto been hazy from both sides.|
It is in this backdrop that the Obama Administration will receive the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September. Though both leaders know what has gone behind in the Indo-US ties but a new administrator of a large democracy who has come with a clear mandate is likely to change the complexion of these vital ties. The US will now engage with a leader of India who after many decades has come with a complete majority and hence has the decision making authority on all issues that would go in bettering the ties. What will mark a turn of new leaf in the ties of the two countries is the clarity on many issues that have hitherto been hazy from both sides. Whether Republican or Democratic, Right-wing or secular there has to be an established process and clarity on how the two countries will take forward the ties into the future. What has gone behind is the unipolar world, visa issue, diplomatic row, etc. What really is going to happen in the immediate future is the new dispensation in the US post 2016 and of how the emerging India-US ties will encourage continuity in the future.
After having hit new heights in recent years with a landmark civil nuclear deal and extravagant defence contracts, India-US ties strained over several issues- Over Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade arrest in New York on visa fraud charge last year, and when Modi was denied a visa in 2005 for travel to the United States following religious riots in 2002 while he was a state chief minister.
Despite all these issues, India-US relations have come of age in past one decade and it would be difficult for any regime in power in New Delhi or in Washington to reverse this process. The US-India relationship has matured and reached a stage where personnel issues will only have a limited impact on its trajectory say foreign policy experts.
|The strength of Modi government will be to set the tone for talks to instill confidence in the US administration that India will chart its own course in world politics based on its national imperatives.|
It is for India now to pursue strategic partnerships with like-minded nations and advance its interests. During the meet, PM Modi will have to clear the perception that India is not yet ready for prime-time and that the political leadership in New Delhi remains perpetually preoccupied with domestic turmoil and lacks political will to claim India’s rightful place in the comity of nations. The strength of Modi government will be to set the tone for talks to instill confidence in the US administration that India will chart its own course in world politics based on its national imperatives.
Indo – US relations have to be seen in the prism of political economy as both nations have geopolitical, strategic and trade interests in the region. On the geopolitical and strategic front both the countries will have to sort out on how to deal with Pakistan which is in the grips of fundamentalism; which way can the terror camps be destroyed, and the necessary steps to strengthen the democracy in that country. How to deal with the rising Talibani influence in Afghanistan, the uncertain democratic prospect in Afghanistan and the effect it will have on Indian ventures; the influence of Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on Afghanistan and the possible side-effects when Nato troops leave the region including the readiness of the region to deal with the growing fundamentalism in South and Central Asia, and the ways to prevent creation of new terror havens in Afghanistan.
On the economic and commercial front the two nations have a lot in terms of trade ties. What is being looked forward from the Modi-Obama meet is – How the Modi government will strengthen the WTO trade mechanism? How will India as one of the major rising economic power take the baton and champion the cause of the developing countries, the flow of Foreign Direct Investment in manufacturing, defense production, and insurance and pension services beside other matters. The wooing of large net worth investors who are keen on investing in developing and stable economies like India will ensure that the flow of portfolio investments get invested in the stock and commodity markets. As far as US is concerened, India will have to understand what shape is the largest economy in the world taking? What the US Federal Reserve will do in terms of interest rates from January next year when the bond buying program gets over. All these factors will determine how the demand in the US will rise and will provide us a potential market to export. The issue of US immigration policy, outsourcing jobs to countries like India, increase in the quota of HIB visa will also require clarity from both the Democrats and the Republicans in America.
In the international framework, the entry of India in the UN Security Council and its gradual entry to the newly forged Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be vital, apart from understanding how US plans to forge its relationship with other powers in the region namely Russia, China and Japan on host of issues ranging from pipeline politics of oil & gas, conflict in Ukraine, conflict in South China Sea, to the spreading Islamic fundamentalism in China. Other issues would include, economy of China, reviving economy of Japan and emerging new economies of Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar and others in the Asian and South Asian region.
Finally, the Modi administration need to make clear to the Obama administration that India is a powerful, self-confident nation that is able to articulate a coherent vision about its priorities and national interests.
Bhagyashree Pande(The writer is Mumbai based freelance journalist)