LS Insights: Obama in India: Symbolism and Substance
US precedent Barak Obama recently concluded his 3 day visit to India, which saw unprecedented engagement between two countries. It was first time that an Incumbent president visited India twice, first time chief guest for republic day, also for the first time US president visited India, without going to Pakistan. In past our relation with US was more often defined in comparison to Pakistan’s, but finally India has broken free of Pakistan based analogy. World over, this engagement is being sold as – coming together of world’s largest and most powerful democracies and fortunately, there are many takers of this symbolism.
Indian PM and US President share very warm personal relations. There is set a Hot line between both on security issues which will enable both leaders to talk directly, instead of through secretariat. This is important in the sense that quite often progress gets halted because of bureaucratic lethargy at lower levels. This is exceptional development in diplomacy.
In past we have seen that personal chemistry has worked or failed to work depending upon character of relation between two countries. Former US President Ronald Reagan and British PM Margaret Thatcher shared similar relations. Later Ms. Thatcher was accused of being pliant to sermons of US, for which her party suffered heavy political loss. In contrast, former Indian PM IK Gujral and Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif had exceptional personal relations, but this doesn’t help both countries to resolve their differences. However, In this case US and India deeply share biggest value of democracy and also face biggest threat of terror. Their economies are significantly dependent upon each other. India’s lucrative IT industry basically caters to requirements of US corporate giants. Also, it is among biggest destination of our non IT exports. On other hand, USA needs access to markets of India. At above of it, fact that the US and Indian economies are the only big economies having positive outlook in near future, makes engagement even sweeter. President Obama also highlighted that Indian investment in US has created about 81000 jobs. Indian investments in US now stand at above $9 billion, which increased about 30 times in last few years.
As already said Pakistan is no more defining factor in India US relations and same is the case with China. Notwithstanding this, engagement of two giants will certainly give message to China that if it pursues expansionist policies further, it will end up alienating its neighbors in favor of US. Joint statement issued, highlighted concerns about Sea Lanes of Communication passing through South China Sea, in which China has disproportionate claims. China responded by asserting that neighbors need not be apprehensive on this issue.
In a breakthrough for civil nuclear cooperation, US have implicitly accepted controversial Nuclear Liability Law. In return, Indian government agreed to create an Insurance pool of Rs 1500 Crore. Perhaps it is first step in forthcoming developments in this area.
On climate change issue, India has successfully resisted pressure to give some china like commitments on curtailing emissions. Instead PM has ensured US that renewable energy will be promoted vigorously for sustainable development.
Further, Indian tri-forces have backlog of demands of various weapons and all major suppliers are competing to get share of this demand. US have already surpassed Russia as major arms supplier to India. Fortunately, India has plenty of options for its defense needs. In old times it had to buy expensive equipments from a particular country due to denial regime. But now, India has emerged as credible and responsible power and denials have faded away. As a result, we’ll able to source best ‘value for money’ equipments.
India is starving for investments in its Infrastructure, education, health, agriculture and overall economy. Government dream of creating enough jobs so as to utilize demographic dividend will depend upon investments in economy. For this efforts like Make in India are underway. Recently, new ministry has been created for skill development. Government is working for easing up of bureaucratic and legal hassles and red tape. PM has expressed his target to bring India’s ease of doing business rank in 50’s. This is must if we want demographic dividend be utilized.
India and US are smoothly cooperating in about 40 different fields such as skill development, energy efficiency, civil nuclear, wind and solar energy, terrorism. There are strong reasons to believe that with this visit, engagement and benefit to India will increase overtime. Moreover, cooperation is getting more refined and streamlines. For e.g. joint statement for the first time mentioned name of terrorist groups and even D company, which means US is willing to work at ground level.
There have been 4 such meeting between heads of these two countries in last 4 months. It is hoped that there is much to come. Cooperation should be mutually beneficial and sustainable too. US companies investing in India will provide jobs, industrial infrastructure and efficient services, and numerous other benefits are inevitable. When such companies come, public governance will also become more responsible and overall standards will be lifted. In all this it is obvious that US companies will derive back profits. But if our economy performs well these investments will stay back in perpetuity. Indians are believed to have highest entrepreneurial spirit. Indians if provided better opportunities here will certainly be able to perform at par with American counterparts. But, we need to guard ourselves against so called ‘American Exceptionalism’, which refers to tendency of US government to demand special treatments and stand apart of others.