Prime minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with president Barack Obama has certainly helped forge a better bilateral relationship, though they have little to show off as deliverables. Bonhomie marked their talks as Obama found time to take him round the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington. The treatment Modi received was similar to the kind heads of state closest to Washington received. In other words, the Americans took extra care of Modi, who was on his maiden US trip, mainly to address the UN General Assembly. Modi took the opportunity to ask Obama to offer greater chances for India’s service providers to play due role in the US economy.
There was agreement on continuing and strengthening defence cooperation between the two countries for another 10 years. The US is the world’s largest arms manufacturer but India does not want just a manufacturer-client relationship. India, which would like to emerge as a defence manufacturer in its own right, would like to have a partnership with the US so that US companies can manufacture their arms in India. The Modi government has already allowed foreign companies to invest in the defence sector. Modi wants joint manufacture of weapons to meet India’s burgeoning demand.
They also grappled with issues like the liability law that has derailed the India-US civil nuclear deal, and the stalled trade facilitation agreement of the WTO. These need to be resolved early to put their relations on an even keel. The joint signed op-ed article they wrote and the “Chalein Saath Saath” vision statement they released, which are imaginative diplomatic initiatives, suggest the extra mile they have traversed in a sincere bid to take the India-US strategic relationship to a new level. Modi’s visit to Ground Zero in New York was a reaffirmation of India’s no-nonsense approach to fighting terrorism. The US also reciprocated his gesture by mentioning the mastermind of the Mumbai blasts safely ensconced in Pakistan.