Modi's Upcoming Talks With Obama: India on the Precipice

Next week,US President Obama is visiting India for the first time since Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister. He will become the first US President to be a guest at the Republic Day parade.

In the States, this is not being seen as a very "big deal". As usual, Americans are fairly ignorant about India, or things associated with India. If you doubt this, just let me say that my wife encountered a woman a few days ago who had no idea what "Hinduism" was, and seemed pretty clueless about the existence of India, but I digress…

As an example, Julie Pace of The Associated Press claimed that the India visit was of no importance, specifically saying, "He's going to India basically for a parade and a visit to the Taj Mahal."

One major area that will be under negotiation is in regards to nuclear investment. There are issues of bureaucratic "red tape" that have dogged American companies seeking to expand into the India. Because there are still fairly few nuclear powers in the world, and among them, fairly few open to investment, India can be seen by American businessmen as a ripe target. Considering India's energy woes, this kind of American involvement could help to increase the efficiency and proliferation of nuclear power plants, but of course, this could also lead to excessive entanglement with US energy corporations, many of which have faced scandals and other problems in recent years.

Defence and Terrorism Issues

According to recent reports, the US has a list of at least 17 different defence projects that will be proposed for joint development and production under the defence Technology Trade Initiative. Hopefully, this signals a trend in regards to US military cooperation with India. Hopefully, Obama has learned what a great "ally" Pakistan is in the fight against terrorism.

Speaking of Pakistan, now that the FBI has launched a counter-intelligence "investigation" into Robin Raphel, a former diplomat who was one of Pakistan's biggest supporters in the US Government, I hope that we see more of a reasonably suspicious tone against that country. There is really no significant reason for the US to not be allied with India...apart from the fact that it damages the US relationship with Pakistan. But who cares? Pakistan is more of a state sponsor of terrorism than Iraq ever was, even in it’s heyday. And really, who can forget their absurd explanations for not noticing that Osama bin Laden was shacked up on their front lawn?

Trade and Environmental Issues

Of course, no discussion of this meeting is complete without a discussion of the possibilities of significant trade agreements. The main sticking point for the US has always been intellectual property rights, even though India already complies with World Trade Organisation standards. Some of the chatter suggests that the US is waffling, and may just give up on trying to force India to comply with more stringent intellectual property standards. It could be a significant boon to both economies.

Both sides are also likely to agree on renewable energy issues, and it’s likely that the US will be offering a grant to India for the purchase of more "green" technology. India is a great place for such a push, because energy is of course in high demand, and the infrastructure for conventional fossil-fuel energy is both outdated and insufficient. It’s much more difficult in countries like the US, because the fossil fuel industry has ensured that the infrastructure is there, and it’s well-maintained. To replace oil and coal with solar and wind in the US requires the destruction of working, recently built or maintained infrastructure, and the replacement with expensive technology. The average citizen will feel no impact, apart from that on taxes. But the average Indian is more likely to reap the benefits of the addition of reliable, renewable, high-tech energy. India stands on the precipice, and has the capability of moving forward into the future in a way that many other countries just do not have either the resources, manpower, or technological savvy to accomplish.

Conclusion

Perhaps one of the reasons that Americans aren’t really paying attention to this India visit is that Americans are just not nearly as likely to benefit from it. President Obama is at a stage of his presidency where he is probably very concerned about his "legacy". You see this in the recent thawing of relations with Cuba, and you see this in his embrace of Prime Minister Modi. PM Modi has shown that he does not back down from a fight, and hopefully, he can ensure that the outcome of these meetings is a stronger India, moving forward on the world stage towards Bharat’s rightful place as a leader, not a servant.

Courtesy Niti Central

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