December 23, 2014
PTI“The fact that Prime Minister Modi and President Obama agreed to hold two summits within a six-month period is testament to their mutual commitment to reviving ties.” Picture shows them in the White House in September.
Barack Obama’s attendance at the Republic Day celebration will signal that the days of Indian obsession with non-alignment are ending
It’s hard to believe that merely seven months ago, speculation was rife that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would hold a grudge against the U.S. for revoking his tourist visa for nine years and keep American officials at arm’s length. The opposite, however, has occurred.
With his invitation to President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the 2015 Republic Day parade, Mr. Modi is overcoming decades of Indian sensitivity over its foreign policy tradition of non-alignment. He’s demonstrating that he is unafraid of the inevitable charge that he’s leaning towards the U.S.
Aside from marking the first time an American leader will serve as an honoured guest at the Republic Day celebration, Mr. Obama’s visit will also make him the first U.S. President to visit the country twice while in office. During his first visit to India in November 2010, Mr. Obama declared the U.S.-India relationship one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century and reached agreement with his counterpart of the time on a wide range of issues.
Commitment to reviving ties
Unfortunately, it was not long after his visit that relations between the two countries began to stagnate as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became distracted by a series of corruption scandals and internal disputes within his own party. The fact that Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama agreed to hold two summits within a six-month period is testament to their mutual commitment to reviving ties. Mr. Modi wants U.S. investment to pull Indian growth rates back up and create jobs for the rapidly expanding working-age population. Mr. Modi met with several top CEOs in the U.S. and delivered a clear message about his commitment to economic reform and the creation of a private-sector-friendly business environment.
The visit rekindled U.S. investor interest and raised expectations that Mr. Modi is serious about reforming the economy. The recent cabinet approval of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill and a government pledge to increase FDI caps in the insurance sector will further encourage foreign investors.
But there also is likely strategic purpose behind Mr. Modi’s outreach to the U.S. Building diplomatic, military and economic ties with the U.S., along with reinforcing ties to countries such as Japan and Australia, allows New Delhi to strengthen its hand in its dealings with China, and helps deter any potential Chinese border aggression.
For his part, Mr. Obama recognises that building relations with India is smart foreign policy. India is an emerging economy that provides opportunities for U.S. trade and investment; a strategically important country in maintaining a stable balance of power in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean; and a democratic nation with a large Muslim minority that provides a model of an ethnically and religiously diverse society maintaining freedom for its citizens.
Improving Indo-U.S. ties is one of the few issues on which there is broad bipartisan consensus, which means President Obama will find support from the new Republican-controlled Congress for his India initiatives. In fact, incoming Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain castigated the Obama administration for lack of a strategic plan for engaging India at a congressional hearing last summer.
Deepening defence cooperation