India matters

The clearest signal from President Barack Obama’s engagement with India on the first day of his official visit is that the relationship between India and the US is no longer a one-way street where India was the supplicant and the US the dispenser of favours. There is recognition of a greater mutuality in the relations, where the US needs help from India, not just support. This is a natural progression in the processes at work in the world and in the two countries, with the US turning economically weaker and India stronger. That accounts for the domination of trade and business in Obama’s pronouncements and the need for creating jobs in a country where there is 10 per cent unemployment being his main and persistent theme. The political setback received by the President in the Congressional elections gave a sense of urgency to the matter.

Business deals worth $10 billion between Indian and US companies will produce 54,000 jobs in the US. Increasing bilateral trade, with greater scope for exports to India, was also high on the president’s agenda, as the US’ burgeoning fiscal deficit is another matter of serious concern. As for India, the removal of restrictions on sale of dual use technology to Indian entities like the ISRO and the DRDO and the support for New Delhi’s entry into major non-proliferation regimes like the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group are takeaways. It is unlikely that any major event like the civil nuclear deal will happen during the  visit. The possible scenario will be a consolidation of the relations, with Obama more eager to publicise the gains the US would make from its growing ties with India. Naturally, inconvenient issues like outsourcing will be pushed to the background, but India should be careful not to let the president exchange rhetoric for substance. India should have no difficulty in Obama making political gains from his visit, as long as India too gains from it.
A major area of mutual concern is terrorism, especially that emanating from Pakistan of which India is a victim. India would like the US to put more pressure on Pakistan to desist from actions directed against it. It was noted that Obama did not mention Pakistan in his speech at the Taj Mahal hotel where the 26/11 attack took place, but he has since said that Pakistan was not quick in dealing with terrorism. India will expect more than shared grief from the US president.

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