When Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands in Washington DC on Monday (US time), it will be his fourth visit to the US in two years, but this one will be different from the earlier three. While his earlier visits to the US were marked by large diaspora and business events, this will be more of a “State-to-State conversation”.
“During earlier visits, he reached out to the large Indian diaspora; this time, he will talk to the American people,” an official told The Indian Express.
A bilateral visit hosted by US President Barack Obama to discuss foreign policy, ‘State-to-State conversation’ will be the focus throughout the visit — starting from Modi’s visit to the Arlington National Cemetery, the bilateral conversation with Obama at the White House, to the joint meeting of the US Congress on Capitol Hill. There is no large diaspora event scheduled in Washington DC this time.
There is expected to be an elaborate joint statement after the Modi-Obama meeting, which will carry forward ideas and proposals from the last joint statement of January 2015, when Obama had visited India.
Officials in New Delhi and Washington, who are negotiating the joint document, said it will have three broad themes — “protecting the commons, securing the frontiers, and increasing people-to-people contact”.
Under the first theme, “protecting the commons or shared spaces”, the joint statement is expected to focus on climate change, freedom of navigation in seas and sky, and cooperation in space and cyber security — in what could be seen as veiled references to China. This is in line with the US-India Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, signed in January 2015 and aimed at an assertive China.
The second part will dwell on security and defence cooperation. “The document will try to capture the forward movement in foundational agreements on defence and counter-terrorism cooperation,” an official said.
The third theme, of greater people-to-people contact, is likely to mention the new facility being considered by the US to facilitate travel of Indians to the US through the “Global Entry” scheme — a US Customs and Border Protection programme that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in the US. Under the scheme, members enter the US through automatic kiosks at select airports. Once that happens, India will be among a handful of countries to be extended the facility.
Stephen P Cohen, senior fellow at Brookings’ Foreign Policy Studies and the India Initiative, told The Indian Express: “There’s American indecision on why India is or could be important; (among) those who view it as a China-balancer, those who see it as a market, and those who are afraid of a regional nuclear arms race getting out of control. But on balance, relations are such that both countries’ interests are served, and no vital interest is threatened… Indian democracy and stability is a core American interest.”