Modi visit comes after mood-swing on India

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:46 am IST

Published - September 24, 2014 07:29 am IST - Washington

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi alights in New York from Air India One on Friday, he will touch down in an America that has experienced a significant mood swing on how the India-U.S. relationship is perceived, and he will likely face an equal measure of optimism on the bilateral business front as he will requests to consider joining the coalition fighting the militant Islamic State group.

The Hindu has learnt that numerous policy stumbling blocks that may have held back progress in bilateral cooperation in the past, including the civilian nuclear agreement, may, for the purposes of Mr. Modi’s five-day visit to the U.S., be considered to be off the table, and instead the focus will be on the Prime Minister’s engagement with the U.S. private sector to boost the reputation of India as an attractive destination for investment.

This would not, however, alleviate the disappointment that India has experienced owing to the inability to realise a nuclear reactor order from U.S. corporations.

Nevertheless, the Indian side comes into this unprecedented tour on a firm footing to take this business-focused agenda forward, it is believed, especially given the large number of requests sent in by U.S. Congressmen and other top political leaders to “fit me into an event,” involving Mr. Modi, apparently a stark contrast to where things stood exactly one year ago.

While a negative, complaining view of India was said to dominate at that time, ever since the May 2014 elections, perceptions and attitudes in the U.S. have shifted, and worldwide, India is now considered to be the repository of good news on the economic front, relative to other potential destinations for U.S. investment such as Europe and East Asia.

This summer’s visit to India by senior-most U.S. administration officials, including Secretaries of State, Commerce, and Defence, respectively John Kerry, Penny Pritzker and Chuck Hagel, was the most clear signal that Washington sent that it was grasping both the political-strategic good news and the untapped business possibilities of deeper engagement with New Delhi, some who are close to these processes believe.

If there is one pressure point in the discussions between Mr. Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, when they meet over a “working dinner” on September 29, it may be the U.S. side’s request that the two nations run together in the fight against the jihadist outfit Islamic State, which now controls swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and has developed a reputation for brutality towards its enemies and hostages.

Thus far India’s name has not found mention in several lists of anti-IS coalition members distributed by the White House.

On the Indian side there however appears to be an understanding that pulling together an international coalition to tackle IS is now a major policy issue in this city and its interjection into the discussions with Mr. Modi is thus only to be expected.

However besides the core theme of spurring on bilateral economic ties across sectors, the Prime Minister and his team will, it is likely, keep the focus on areas such as smart cities, renewable energy, green technology, and seek to remove all obstacles standing in the way of the two countries building up a solid relationship.

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