WASHINGTON: With an unprecedented joint vision statement aimed at taking Washington-New Delhi ties to a new high, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed off after his five-day tour of the US with not only a slew of new promises in several sectors, but also of support from the US that is sure to set off alarm bells in Beijing and Islamabad.
Security-wise, India and the US have gone a step further on this visit -- but on defence and trade issues, there is still not as much exuberance. And the bitter period of last December, when the two countries were recriminating each other over the treatment of an Indian diplomat, is not a hindrance any more.
The speculation about the lingering impact of the visa ban on Modi that could have hung over US-India ties, is now over. The US trip was his final victory lap for winning the elections and bringing his party to majority.
The joint statement is about the nuts and bolts -- economic, finance, trade, energy, climate change, education, defence, science and strategic issues -- which require the two countries to be brought closer together. This is normal diplomatic practice.
But, it is the vision statement with its new mantra of ‘chalein saath saath’ translated awkwardly as ‘Forward together we go’, which spelled out the big picture, and added the layer of historicity to this visit.
“If it had only been the joint statement, it may not have been enough. But the vision statement is what tells us about the big picture, the strategic direction,” said Brookings’ Tanvi Madan. And the main takeaway is that there is an ambition to do more outside the bilateral realm - in other regions and continents.
“It is a good joint statement. But a lot of hard work is needed now to implement it and more importantly, focussed political leadership,” added Madan.
“It is actually rather interesting how little Pakistan has featured in India-US relations. Even Modi also spoke just four lines in the UN. It was clever of him not to get bogged down,” said Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Milan Vaishnav. Just before the visit, US approved the sale of mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles to Pakistan. Now, India and US are “exploring” the purchase for MRAPs, again for first time.
While officials said India is not joining the anti-US ISIL coalition cobbled together by US, India has agreed to exchange a list of nationals who have returned from the conflict zone.
Also significantly, both will keep each other informed about citizens who get caught up in the conflict zones. This will be especially helpful as 41 Indian captives remain in Mosul, as the anti-ISIL coalition begins airstrikes. On the defence side, Naval Malabar exercises will be upgraded and US will be the knowledge partner for the National Defence University. But, the expectation of announcement of a big-ticket co-production like Javelin did not take place. Instead, both have set up a task force under the Defence trade and technology initiative to decide on unique projects - a la Brahmos.
BiZ Takeaways s
■ Increase trade from $97 billion in 2013 to $500 bn, but no timeline set for this target
■ Still no breakthrough in bridging the gap on WTO’s FTA as India is adamant on nod to Bali package at one go
■ US partnership in developing smart cities in Ajmer, Vishakapatnam, Allahabad
■ US, India to partner in Digital India initiative
■ Both working to resolve outstanding tax disputes
■ SelectUSA, Export-Import Bank of India to work with Indian cos for US investment
■ Infra Collaboration Platform between US Commerce Dept and Finance Ministry
■ USIBC identified $41 bn-worth of projects from members over next 2-3 yrs
■ BlackRock global investors summit in India next year
■ Establish high-level intellectual property working group
■ Two US trade missions will visit India in 2015 on how to meet Indian infra needs
■ Public-private discussions in early 2015 under commercial dialogue on near areas of cooperation