Measuring the Outcomes.
Overall, Modi's visit to the US was a huge publicity success for him and India. He electrified the Indian American community, his joint editorial with Obama was a coup, and so was Obama's personal gesture to accompany him to the Martin Luther King memorial. Modi came across as self-assured and projected a confident India. In short, the claim is that India's relations with America are set to blossom in many directions. But for this to happen both countries need to address issues that are crucial for such blossoming. These include trade disputes, adherence to climate change standards, nuclear proliferation, India's ongoing purchases of Iranian oil, New Delhi's soft approach towards an increasingly revanchist Russia, and economic reforms for investment.
Let us take here only a few selected issues for closer examination.
First, the civil nuclear cooperation: The Vision Statement limits itself to just blandly asserting, "We will partner to ensure that both countries have affordable, clean, reliable, and diverse sources of energy, including through our efforts to bring American-origin nuclear power technologies to India." The Joint Statement issued, however, provides: "The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to implement fully the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement. They established a Contact Group on advancing the implementation of civil nuclear energy cooperation in order to realize early their shared goal of delivering electricity from U.S.-built nuclear power plants in India. They looked forward to advancing the dialogue to discuss all implementation issues, including but not limited to administrative issues, liability, technical issues, and licensing to facilitate the establishment of nuclear parks, including power plants with Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi technology."
Given the fact that the India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed back in 2008, on October 10, this evidently does not mark any remarkable progress, to put it rather mildly.
Then let us take up the issue of the stalled Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) - stalled because of Indian objection at the WTO, linking it to the final settlement of the pending issue of food subsidy/security.
There is just nothing in the Vision Statement. Similarly, there is nothing in Obama's opening remarks. Again, it was Modi, in his response, raised the issue upfront: "We had a candid discussion on Bali ministerial of the WTO. India supports trade facilitation. The Joint Statement, in this regard, is rather interesting: "The leaders discussed their concerns about the current impasse in the World Trade Organization and its effect on the multilateral trading system, and directed their officials to consult urgently along with other WTO members on the next steps." So, that means, until date, there is no change either in the Indian or in the US position. Things stand, more or less, where they stood before the talks.
Then let us look at the Framework Agreement for defence cooperation between the two nations. The Vision Statement avers: "Our strategic partnership is a joint endeavour for prosperity and peace. Through intense consultations, joint exercises, and shared technology, our security cooperation will make the region and the world safe and secure. Together, we will combat terrorist threats and keep our homelands and citizens safe from attacks, while we respond expeditiously to humanitarian disasters and crises.
On the issue of protection of environment, the Vision Statement promises: "Climate change threatens both our countries, and we will join together to mitigate its impact and adapt to our changing environment. We will address the consequences of unchecked pollution through cooperation by our governments, science, and academic communities. We will partner to ensure that both countries have affordable, clean, reliable, and diverse sources of energy, including through our efforts to bring American-origin nuclear power technologies to India."
Recognizing the critical importance of increasing energy access, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving resilience in the face of climate change, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi agreed to a new and enhanced strategic partnership on energy security, clean energy, and climate change.
Both leaders are committed to working towards a successful outcome in Paris in 2015 of the conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the creation of a new global agreement on climate change.
To sum up, the Joint Statement is quite an ambitious one - a rather elaborate blueprint for significantly expanding the US footprints in India in a wide range of sectors including economic, diplomatic, military, education, urban development, education, health, ecology etc. However, these are mostly intentions, as of now.
Before we finally wrap up, let us turn our attention to issues related to the human rights.
The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, commonly known by its acronym of FIACONA, was in the vanguard of a successful campaign to deny a US visa to Modi in 2005, with Indian activists support such as Dr John Dayal, Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ and Rev. Richard Howell and others. This time the FIACONA statement got little attention either in the US or in India. It is a pity that hardly anyone noticed that statement.
In a sweeping reversal of its crusading role against Modi ever since he became Gujarat's chief minister, FIACONA practically ended its long campaign against him. Incredibly, the statement began thus: "Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America welcomes the Prime Minister of India to Washington." The organization was merely reflecting the change of mood in the US on the prime minister and being pragmatic. But for Modi, personally, this change of mind among Christian organizations in America was a bigger vindication than Barack Obama's own belated endorsement of the Prime Minister Modi.
In conclusion, it seems that PM Modi sees the United States as an instrument that can play supportive role to his domestic agenda by serving as a source of capital and technology for the developmental projects. Such a truncated vision of partnership is unlikely to be appealing to the President Obama or his successor. What does India do now? Perhaps Modi should concentrate on the domestic problems. After all, the best way to of attracting foreign investment will be by making India a credible destination.
(The writer is Delhi based senior journalist and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.
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