Beijing : Strategic consideration is behind the frequent meetings between US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the latter is paying his fourth trip to the US since he took office in 2014. For Obama, improving US-India ties will help consolidate his diplomatic legacy as seven months are left before he leaves office; for Modi, his visit is aimed at seeking new momentum for developing ties with Washington.
The White House on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to joining the Paris climate change pact as soon as possible this year. India similarly has begun its processes to work toward this shared goal. “The US and India recognize the urgency of the threat of climate change and are therefore committed to bringing the Paris Agreement into force as quickly as possible,” said the White House in a statement.
In a separate statement, the two leaders welcomed the start of preparatory work on site in India for six nuclear reactors to be built by American company Westinghouse. Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the US-India civil nuclear agreement, according to the statement.
The two countries also pledged to develop their defence relations into “an anchor of stability” and would work on technology sharing to a level commensurate with that of closest allies and partners. The text of a logistics agreement, which will allow the countries’ militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases, would be signed soon, a US official said.
Obama said he and Modi also discussed areas where the two countries can cooperate more effectively in order to promote jobs, investment and trade, and greater opportunities for young people in the two countries. Modi arrived in the US on Monday for a three-day official visit. This is Modi’s fourth trip to the US and his seventh meeting with Obama since he became prime minister two years ago.
Such frequency of meetings between Obama and a leader who is not a formal ally is “impressive”, Ashley Tellis, an India expert with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was quoted by Reuters as saying. Just a few years ago, Modi was banned from entering the US soil for his role in the anti-Muslim riots that occurred in India’s state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was the chief minister. Modi denies any wrongdoing. Now, Modi was greeted by a flag-bearing military honour guard when he arrived at the entrance to the West Wing for talks with Obama.
Modi will also deliver a speech at the US Congress. The speech will be the fifth such address by an Indian premier, and the first in more than a decade. The change in treatment Modi has received from Washington was viewed by many as the result of a warming India-US relationship, which has seen ups and downs in recent years.
What is behind the veil is strategic consideration from both Washington and New Delhi. Washington attaches importance to India’s strategic value, economic development potential and ideological advantage, said Jin Canrong, vice president of the School of International Studies at Renmin University, adding that embracing India will help consolidate the US “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific”.
According to Jin, India is willing to deepen the India-US relations out of the consideration in both strategic security and economic development. However, there is a long way for the two countries to become what Obama said “best partners” during his visit to India in 2015. A history of colonial rule followed by decades of nonalignment has made New Delhi wary of an embrace by the US, according to a Reuters report.
“It is neither a strategic partnership nor an alliance,” Nitin Gokhale, founder of Indian defense portal Bharat Shakti, was quoted by the report as saying. “It can be a long-term arrangement, but to call it a strategic partnership would be premature.” The US and India values do not fit each other completely, said Zhao Gancheng, an India expert with Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, adding that India adopts an independent foreign policy and has tried to keep neutral when dealing with major countries. Modi is also a nationalist leader and he will not blindly follow the US, Zhao said.