Strategic ties still a distant dream

Strategic ties still a distant dream

PM in US: India yet to match Chinas superior business clout

Strategic ties still a distant dream

But the not-so-good news is India is still some distance away from truly joining the US as a “global strategic partner”.

The reason is, for the US, the money is not yet where the heart is. India has yet to match China’s vastly superior business clout around the world.  For fifty-five minutes on Tuesday morning, Singh and Obama had frank exchange of views on issues that mattered to the two countries in the bilateral, regional — South Asia in particular and Asia in general — and international contexts. This one-on-one meeting was originally scheduled for just 30 minutes after which the members of their respective delegations were to join them for an extended session.

The meeting overshot the time limit. Much of their discussions, it is understood, was centred around strategic and security issues. The only others present during the discussions were the respective national security advisors — India’s M K Narayanan and US’ James Jones.

Their discussions, said sources, focused, among others, on security situation in the Indian sub-continent — China’s aggressive diplomatic postures vis-a-vis India, Pakistan and terrorism, Afghan situation, the bilateral civil nuclear deal and climate change issues.

The discussions were so frank that they opted to go on and sharply curtail the duration of the subsequent extended summit dialogue which lasted for just 15 minutes. What transpired during the one-on-one was a matter of speculation. But the sources said Singh’s “body language” as he emerged from the meeting and his subsequent briefing to senior members of his delegation showed he was “supremely satisfied” with the summit proceedings.

Vital relationship

The US side too shared this mood in the Indian camp. “The discussions were very frank. Obama is convinced that this relationship is very important and needs to be deepened,” a top American diplomat said.

Indeed, in some ways, Obama himself reflected this shared optimism about Indo-US ties. “India today is a rising and responsible power. In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and security across the region…the United States welcomes and encourages India’s leadership role in helping the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia,” the president said in his opening remarks at a joint press conference with Singh following their discussions.

Obama, who was meeting Singh for the third time, though first time for their bilateral summit, appeared to have established excellent rapport with the prime minister. “I consider him (Singh) a wise man who has helped unleash India’s extraordinary economic growth. He is a man of honesty and integrity. I respect him and I trust him…” he said.

These words of praise for Singh’s leadership, coupled with the fact of the prime minister being his first guest for an elaborate State Banquet at the White House, is symbolically very significant.

The letdown for the Indian side, however, is the joint statement issued at the conclusion of the day-long summit events. Beyond symbolism, there is very little of substance in direct and assertive terms, be it on Indian security concerns vis-à-vis China, Pakistan or on quick commercial operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

The eight-page statement, summerising the summit outcome, however, stated that “the two leaders resolved to harness these shared strengths and to expand the US-India global partnership for the benefit of their countries, for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and for the betterment of the world. Obama also accepted the prime minister’s invitation to visit India next year.

What, however, holds immense promise for the strategic ties is that both the leaders emphasised the need to expand collaboration in the fields of high technology, civil nuclear energy, clean and renewable energy, education and health.