When Modi meets Barry: Reviving India-U.S. Relations

During the election campaign, Modi had said he bears no personal grudge against the United States and wants to build a solid partnership on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

Written by C. Raja Mohan | Published:June 5, 2014 12:39 pm
During the course of his trip, Modi will meet Obama and is likely to have a dialogue with him on bilateral issues concerning the two countries. Some in Delhi were suggesting that Modi should signal his displeasure towards the United States by avoiding a trip to Washington.

After reaching out to neighbours immediately after the elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wasted no time in setting up a date with U.S. President Barack Obama. The quick agreement between Delhi and Washington to schedule a summit at the White House during late September should quiet the sceptics in both countries about the future of the India-U.S. relations.

The United States, which Modi in the diplomatic doghouse for nearly a decade on charges that he did not do enough to control the Gujarat riots in 2002, has been eager to make political amends in the last few weeks. During the election campaign, Modi had said he bears no personal grudge against the United States and wants to build a solid partnership on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

Some in Delhi were suggesting that Modi should signal his displeasure towards the United States by avoiding a trip to Washington. Instead they said, Modi could sit down with Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, if the new Prime Minister chooses to travel to New York in September.

In rejecting this advice, Modi has understood what many in the Indian strategic community do not. Having an active and productive engagement with the United States generates much diplomatic space for India in dealing with other major powers, including China, Russia, Europe and Japan, as well as expand India’s margin for manoeuvre in Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Although Modi’s predecessor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recognised the centrality of the U.S. in India’s multi-directional engagement, the ideological ambivalence in the Congress party saw the UPA government slam the brakes just when the relationship with the U.S. was about to take off. In Washington, the Obama Administration lacked the kind of strategic vision for the partnership with India that President George W. Bush had outlined. With diminishing political commitment in both capitals, the relationship inevitably hit a plateau in the last few years.

In mid 2005, when Singh and Bush announced the plan to build a strategic partnership, it was merely an idea. The U.S. was strong and the unipolar moment was at its peak. India’s economy was booming and its ties with most powers were improving.

A decade later there is no denying that the U.S. is much weaker and India has stumbled. Delhi and Washington need each other a lot more today than they did in 2005. If that understanding percolates to the two bureaucracies, the September summit could be a consequential one for both the nations.

(The writer is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a contributing editor for The Indian Express)

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    Dilip
    Jun 22, 2014 at 11:12 am
    Election is over, so you can stop political propoa. What he needs to do is doented in the Manifesto. He has asked for 60 months. Have decency to give him 60 months. What Modi has achieved in four weeks is more than what UPA did in past 4 years. If he has not achieved what he said he would, then you are free to vote against him in 60 months. Till then get over being sore loser.
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      Dilip
      Jun 22, 2014 at 11:08 am
      Modi knows what he needs to do and not to do. Whatever he will do, will be in the strategic interest of India, not a result of his personal feelings. That is the difference between other leaders and Modi. To him, it is India First.
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        Mahesh Sarin
        Jun 6, 2014 at 10:15 am
        Congress leader and nine time winner of Lok Sabha election Mr Kamal Nath has proved his management skill and efficient functioning as a pro tem speaker of 16th Lok Sabha. It was his style of functioning only that in one single day more than 500 members of the house took the oath.
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          Mahesh Sarin
          Jun 6, 2014 at 10:16 am
          In our Parliamentary system there is a provision of Pro tem speaker who presides the proceedings of the newly consuted lower house of our parliament that is Lok Sabha during the period when new members take the oath.
          Reply
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            Mahesh Sarin
            Jun 6, 2014 at 10:16 am
            Mr Narendra Modi will either make or break India... but give him time. India desperately needs speedy development and to control corruption. If he does both these tasks we'd go very ahead. Just because Modi won does not mean Modi-ites should get so triumphalistic.
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              Mahesh Sarin
              Jun 6, 2014 at 10:16 am
              Now Mr Narendra Modi is the prime minister of India. Let’s see results - not the kind we saw in Gujarat. Facts. Truth. Not hype. It was the same with the election campaign - first Development, then Polarization.
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                Mahesh Sarin
                Jun 6, 2014 at 10:16 am
                The Narendra Modi government needs to control inflation, dal, chawal ... if not the the large majority who voted for the development agenda will be lost. Hindu rashtra is not for which Modi was elected.
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                  Mahesh Sarin
                  Jun 6, 2014 at 10:15 am
                  The ancient Indians invented the place value system which in turn also caused them to invent zero to denote places without any value. As Einstein said, ‘We should be thankful to Indians who taught us how to count without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been possible.
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