March 16, 2015
While breaking the logjam on nuclear liability is perceived as the most significant outcome of the Obama visit, such a narrow focus misses the larger picture. An underlying broader political objective has driven the India-U.S.-nuclear dialogue since the end of the Cold War, and in the talk of ending the logjam, Narendra Modi and Barack Obama clearly had the larger political objective in view
A month has passed since U.S President Barack Obama was in Delhi as the chief guest at the Republic Day and had his famous “chai pe charcha” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. An overview of the Indian commentary about the Obama visit would reveal that breaking the logjam on nuclear liability is perceived as its most significant outcome. Both leaders focussed on it at their joint press conference and Paragraph 43 of the Joint Statement states that “the Leaders welcomed the understandings reached on the issues of civil nuclear liability and administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation, and looked forward to U.S.-built nuclear reactors contributing to India’s energy security at the earliest.”
Political objective in mind
A lack of details initially led to considerable speculation about the nature of the breakthrough and the assurances provided. To clarify matters, the Ministry of External Affairs took the unusual step of putting out a seven page ‘Questions and Answers’ explanatory paper which sparked yet another round of debate on whether this was really a breakthrough or not. However, such a narrow focus on nuclear liability misses the larger picture; there is an underlying broader political objective which has driven the nuclear dialogue between India and the United States since the end of the Cold War, and when Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama talked of breaking the logjam, they clearly had the larger political objective in view.