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Narendra Modi’s US Visit: India’s Arrival in the Big League

October 1, 2014

The rather impromptu decision by the American President Barrack Obama to accompany Modi to the Martin Luther King Jr memorial to pay homage throws ample light on the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States. Reports suggest that Obama’s decision to join Modi was a last minute after-thought.

top 10 outcomes of Narendra modi US visit

 

Obviously, such a gesture by Obama, who had preferred to meet Modi at the very last leg of the latter’s visit, speaks volumes about Modi’s growing international stature.

Obama-Modi Exuded Warmth

Obama’s yet another gesture to greet Modi in the latter’s mother tongue Gujarati with  ‘Kem Chho’ (How are you?) and Modi’s response in English –“Thank you, Mr President”, too goes well with their joint vision statement called “Chalein saath, saath: Forward together we go”. Already the vision document – touted as a new agenda that enables the two countries to find mutually rewarding ways to expand collaboration in trade, investment and technology – has generated much excitement among India watchers in Washington DC.

In a first, both Obama and Modi even wrote a joint editorial in a US newspaper where they resolved that “Our natural and unique partnership can help shape international security and peace for years to come.”

Modi: Rockstar Reception in the US

None would dispute that Modi capitalised on his USA visit by playing to his strengths that indeed signalled his arrival in the big league. His attires were neat, his speeches in Hindi extempore yet well-articulated, and his penchant for the big occasion was absolutely impeccable.

It was a visit with all pomp and show laced with a deliberate attempt to invoke Bharatiyata (Indian-ness). His fasting during the entire trip that coincided with the nine-day Hindu festival of Navratri did figure in the US media and often he was referred to as a “Hindu” leader in the press. There were media references even of the Gujarat riots, yet what eclipsed these all was the grand reception that he got from the strong Indian community. He wooed the Indian-Americans with a slew of visa sops and did emerge as a rockstar before an unprecedented gathering of the members of Indian diaspora at the Madison Square Garden.

What though marked the big difference in the way the World used to look at Modi was his speech at the United Nations General Assembly. He reiterated India’s call for a permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council and reminded that India was among the largest contributors to the United Nations peacekeeping force.

Modi Fared Well On Diplomacy Front

Modi’s visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan prior to his UNGA visit too was a masterstroke and showed, as the New York Times wrote, “that he clearly understands the value of political symbolism”. More importantly, it was also interpreted to be Modi’s “signal” to his support for the USA’s renewed thrust on fighting terrorism. Without naming Pakistan he successfully conveyed in no uncertain terms that it supported militant outfits that used its soil to carry out terrorist strikes in India. At the same time, he rebuked Islamabad for repeatedly invoking Kashmir at the UN –“Raising issues in this forum is not the way to make progress towards resolving issues between our two countries.” Another significant move at the UNGA was his meetings with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and his Nepali counterpart Sushil Koirala with whom Modi talked about a “’strong SAARC”. Obviously, such meetings on one hand lent more credence to Modi’s assertions at the UNGA that India wanted close ties with its neighbours, and on the other hand isolated Pakistan in the South Asian diplomacy.

Modi impressed Global Business Leaders

On the business front, he did have a high-powered breakfast meeting with top CEOs in New York, where he significantly talked about India’s willingness to be “open-minded” and sought to boost the confidence of the prospective investors by stressing that he “wants change that is not one-sided”. The Indian Prime Minister promised tax stability and reiterated his commitment towards liberalising the Indian economy for a “friendlier business environment”.

Modi’s meeting with former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary too was significant in face of speculations that Hillary may contest the US Presidential election in 2016.

Modi Built Bonds with World Leaders

At the Indo-US bilateral level, his meeting with President Obama could not be seen in isolation with Modi’s recent string of meetings with the leaders of some of the world’s big economic powers including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Upon his return, Modi is also scheduled to meet the Russian President Vladimir Putin too who visits India later this year.

Modi could leverage such meetings with the world leaders to some real hard talks with the USA on certain contentious issues particularly that concerned India’s food security. (Much to the USA’s discomfiture, India has resisted the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade facilitation agreement on grounds that it does not address India’s food security concerns).

Top 10 Outcomes of Obama-Modi Meeting

At the White House’s Oval Office, both Obama and Modi had an extended meeting that lasted over 90 minutes and the USA and India agreed to –

  • Facilitate the actions necessary to increase the bilateral trade that has increased fivefold since 2001 to nearly$100 billion, by another fivefold.
  • Raise investment by institutional investors and corporate entities by establishing an Indo-U.S. Investment Initiative led by the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Treasury, with special focus on capital market development and financing of infrastructure.
  • Establish an Infrastructure Collaboration Platform convened by the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Commerce to enhance participation of U.S. companies in infrastructure projects in India.
  • Offer U.S. industry to be the lead partner in developing smart cities in Ajmer (Rajasthan), Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh).
  • A new partnership to advance the Prime Minister’s goal of improved access to clean water and sanitation for all.
  • Support the Prime Minister’s 500 Cities National Urban Development Mission and Clean India Campaign.
  • Hold public-private discussions in early 2015 under the Commercial Dialogue on new areas of cooperation, including innovation in advanced manufacturing.
  • A new and enhanced strategic partnership on energy security, clean energy, and climate change.
  • Facilitate deeper defence cooperation and renew for ten more years the 2005 Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship. Both India and the US also directed their defence teams to develop plans for more ambitious programmes and activities.
  • Modi’s visit also resulted in a major breakthrough on the issues of Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal wherein a Contact Group would now explore ways on advancing the implementation of civil nuclear energy cooperation.

Yet, both   the Modi-Obama joint statement and the India-US Vision Document issued by the White House are cryptically silent about India being blacklisted by the United State Trade Representative. Significantly India, which Faces US sanctions for solar imports, and faces challenges from the US on its solar program at the WTO, had dropped plans to impose an anti-dumping duty on solar panel imports, a move aimed at mending frayed commercial ties with the Washington D.C.

Undoubtedly, Modi’s visit has generated much hope for an improved Indo-US relationship that had hit a particular low after the arrest and strip search of Devyani  Khobragade,  India’s then deputy Consul General in New York, who was  charged with visa fraud and making false statements about a domestic helper, last year.

WBDP01.09.2014

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

I am a journalist, educationist and filmmaker with over twenty years of experience in the media industry. I have worked in different capacities in all formats (print, television and web) in prestigious media organizations in India and abroad. As a journalist I have covered social issues, natural calamities, successive state assembly as well as parliament elections since 1989, government offices, Indian political parties, state legislative assemblies as well as Indian Parliament.

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