Deepening relationship

The fact that India and the US issued a vision document, Modi and Obama penned a joint op-ed, and then a comprehensive Joint Statement, speaks volumes for the breadth of discussions between them.

October 02, 2014 02:05 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:28 pm IST

After a hectic, often frenetic five days in the United States, it is time to take stock of the achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. To begin with, the welcome he received, both in New York and in Washington, has firmly closed the door on a most awkward situation in bilateral ties: that of India voting in a leader proscribed by the U.S. Mr. Modi has been received at every level in the U.S., and if the Obama administration didn’t revoke the visa order, the gesture of President Obama right at the end to accompany Mr. Modi to the Martin Luther King Memorial came as a poignant signal that the U.S. genuinely wants to move ahead with India’s newly elected leader. Secondly, U.S. business, clearly disaffected by the difficulties they face in doing business with India, have also signalled its desire to renew investments. The fact that the two countries issued a vision document, the two leaders penned a joint op-ed, and then came out with a comprehensive 3,500-word Joint Statement, speaks volumes for the breadth of discussions between them in a short period. Yet, while the three documents contain all the parts of the relationship, they fail to convey the whole.

On issues where the countries agree, such as defence and energy, they show only incremental progress, without any big announcements. On issues where the countries differ, like the nuclear deal, trade and WTO, they seem to have deferred negotiations, indicating that no progress was made in resolving them. In that context, even the renewal of the strategic partnership, and reference to “joint and concerted efforts” to dismantle terror groups including al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqanis” do not indicate any particularly new action or formulation. The statements seem most opaque when it comes to spelling out a shared worldview for India and the U.S.: while referring obliquely to China’s aggression in the South China Sea, ‘global crises’ like the situations in Iraq and Syria, and cooperation in Afghanistan, and a confounding, long reference to North Korea (DPRK), they list no action or step that the two countries hope to take together. And while both sides made it clear ahead of the talks that the U.S. would request, and India would discuss, the possibility of joining the anti-ISIS coalition, there is silence on where those discussions led. On all fronts of the ‘comprehensive dialogue’, that is, eight issues including energy, health, space, women’s empowerment, trade, skills, strategy and security, Mr. Modi’s visit successfully brought India-U.S. ties, that were faltering for a few years, back on track. But in order to reach the finish line, Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama will need a clearer enunciation of their shared vision for the road ahead.

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