Intro: US President Barack Obama has made tall promises to end terrorism during Modi’s US visit. But it remains to be seen how sincerely will US deal with the issue.
What is the main takeaway for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to the United States? He had been successful in attracting huge crowd at Madison Square and Global Citizen Festival where he marketed his “Make in India” concept well. He also impressed upon the CEOs of Boeing, KKR, BlackRock, IBM, GE, Goldman Sachs, Google, Hospira, Pincus, Citigroup, MasterCard, Cargil, Pepsico, Caterpillar, and AES, Merck and Carlyle group and Indian Americans to invest in India. It is to be seen now, how much investment will he be successful in attracting into India.
Prime Minister Modi and President Barack Obama signed a joint statement and a vision statement for US-India Strategic Partnership and both jointly wrote an editorial in Washington Post. ‘Chalein Saath Saath–Forward Together We Go’ is the clarion call jointly given by the two leaders. Both the leaders expressed concerns over the growing threats of terrorism. But will the principle of ‘Chalein Saath Saath hold good when al-Qaeda and other terrorist outfit attack India from their bases in Pakistan? Modi has said that terrorism in India is not home grown but it is exported.
Terrorism is an issue India has repeatedly emphasised that needs concerted global attention and active participation by super power like US to fight its menace to the last. But it remains to be seen, how far is US sincere in dealing with it? Will US be an active partner with India to fight against terrorism?
At the 69th session of UN General Assembly (UNGA) Prime Minister Modi urged for early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and to make the global body an effective instrument to fight the destabilising acts of non-state actors. He also raised the need for reforms both in the United Nations and UN Security Council (UNSC) by taking into account the contemporary realties. For reforms within the UN, Modi in his meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon, urged that he can himself take the initiative of suggesting that countries contributing troops to UN Peace Keeping Forces should be consulted in decision making process before the matter is put up before the UNSC.
Modi’s proposal for International Yoga Day at UN received instant support from Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Yoga, he said, is a panacea for societal ills. Reforms in the UNSC are urgently needed to effectively deal with the contemporary situation of conflicts and threats of terrorism. And added, UN should be an effective body in tackling global problems.
Modi castigated interested powers to forms groups like G-7, G-8 and others to deal with the problems. The UN should be G-All, he urged.
Indian PM’s pin-pointed reference to the discrimination between “good” and “bad” terrorists might not have been liked by the US which draws distinction between “good” Taliban and “bad” Taliban. US and NATO powers support to insurgent groups trying to topple Assad regime in Syria brings into question the sincerity of world powers in fighting the menace of terrorism. Even the support to Taliban resistance during Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan was an instance of supporting terrorism to achieve political ends.
But Modi was bold in raising the question – “Are we really making concerted international efforts to fight these forces, or are we still hobbled by our politics, our divisions, our discrimination between countries, and distinction between good and bad terrorists?”
In an indirect reference to Pakistan and some countries in West Asia, he said; “Even today, states allow terrorist sanctuaries on their territory or use terrorism as an instrument of their policy.”
He said that India is prepared to engage in serious bilateral dialogue with Pakistan in a peaceful atmosphere “without the shadow of terrorism”. And Pakistan should also engage in bilateral dialogue with India on the basis of Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration that does not stipulate any involvement of a third party. Recently, the dialogue process between the two countries was derailed as Pakistan chose to talk to Kashmiri separatists before the secretary level talks scheduled in Islamabad. Modi cautioned Pakistan that raising Kashmiri issue in UN will be of no avail.
Meanwhile, Kashmiri American Council (KAC) protested against Prime Minister Modi's meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington on September 29 to condemn India's alleged 'brutalities' against Kashmiris.
However, Obama has underlined the need for continued comprehensive global efforts to combat and defeat terrorism, including joint and concerted efforts to dismantle safe havens of terrorists and criminal network, disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks like al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company and the Haqqanis. Obama has also urged Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice. What remains to be seen is, will US really walk the talk?
India had raised the issues of maritime security, cyber security, and security in outer space apart from its homeland security. The 2005 Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship was renewed for next 10 years and both the countries agreed to reinvigorate the political-military dialogue and expand its role to serve as a wider dialogue on export licencing, defence and strategic cooperation. It has been decided to set up a Task Force to expeditiously evaluate and decide on unique projects and technologies aimed at enhancing India’s defence industry and military capabilities.
US agreed to cooperate in setting up National Defence University in India. Both the US and India have agreed to upgrade the existing bilateral Malabar naval exercise. Expressing concern over the rise of China in Asia-Pacific, both India and US, agreed to work closely with countries in the region through consultations, dialogues and joint exercises. It is reported, India-Japan-US trilateral ties will also be raised to the level of foreign ministers. However, playing to Modi’s homeland security concerns, Obama pledged to help India counter the threat of improvised explosive devices with information and technology—India is eager to purchase US-made mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles.
On the contrary, Modi’s plan to give visa-on-arrival to US citizens can cause problems. In case persons like David Hadley decide to visit India again, what would the government do?
After the success of India’s Mars Mission, the NASA-ISRO Mars Joint Working Group has been set up under US-India Civil Space Joint Working Group. Besides there are other agreements like setting up of India-US Investment Initiative, Infrastructure Collaboration Platform, development of Ajmer, Vishakhapatnam, and Allahabad as smart cities by US industry as lead partner, support to 500 Cities, National Urban Development Mission and Clean India Campaign, modernising Indian railways, skill development and reinvigorating the higher education dialogue. But all said and done, US can do best for India only by walking the talk in fight against terrorism.
Ashok B Sharma (The writer is senior columnist)