Obama will offer a $10 trillion carrot to Modi at September meeting – Madhav Nalapat

Prof M.D. Nalapat“Narendra Modi will be given a full dose of the legendary Obama charm. ‘The President has ensured that his entire team is on the same page on the question of welcoming and working with Prime Minister Modi, including senior officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry (who were earlier adopting the Bush-Clinton line on him),’ a key source on Capitol Hill claimed.” – Prof Madhav Nalapat

Barak ObamaUS President Barack Obama intends to work towards making India a $10 trillion economy. Hence he is disregarding advice from Clinton-era officials to continue to adopt a hostile stance towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Authoritative sources in Washington say that the US President has decided to ensure that Modi receives “the same warm welcome that was extended to Manmohan Singh in the White House”. Apart from a formal meeting in the Oval Office, “which would be the forum for substantive discussions and not merely a photo-op”, the Prime Minister will be invited to a private dinner at the White House with President Obama, according to key sources on Capitol Hill. They point out that Modi will be “the only world leader attending the UN General Assembly in mid-September to get this level of Presidential attention”, and that “this is a clear indication that President Obama seeks to distance his administration from the (George W. Bush-Hillary Clinton) legacy of seeking to indict Narendra Modi for the 2002 Gujarat riots”. This reconsideration was first reported in The Sunday Guardian (Obama quietly reverses Hillary’s ‘get Modi’ policy, 20 April 2014).

In a sense what Barack Obama is seeking with India is similar to the approach followed by then President Richard Milhous Nixon in 1972 towards China, “of seeking to make the country a strong economic power”. A senior US official said that “the intention of President Obama is to help India to become a $10 trillion economy”, which would be five times higher than the present level. Another official warned that “the $6 trillion gap between Indian and Chinese GDP is upsetting the strategic balance in Asia, and needs to be bridged”. He said that initiatives which had been stalled by Clinton-era officials in various departments for so long “will now get fast-tracked”. These will include much greater cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism, space, education and science & technology than was permitted by the Clinton-heavy US administration thus far. “Nearly 30 co-production programmes between the US and India are to be proposed within the year,” a senior official said, adding that “some of these have already been suggested, but were blocked by paralysis in decision-making of the Hillary Clinton & Sonia GandhiManmohan Singh government.” The US has already publicly announced that it would like trade between the two sides to cross $500 billion annually in a few years, up from the present level of $100 billion.

A source on Capitol Hill claimed that “Hillary Clinton and her folks adopted the schoolmistress approach of telling countries what they should do.” In contrast, he said that “President Obama is more respectful of the choices made by different countries, even when these do not conform exactly to US needs.” A high-level source added that “the intention is to work out an equal relationship with India, which would create a balanced power equilibrium in Asia and moreover tap into the synergies between US and Indian (private) business”. His assistant said that the intent behind the new approach was to “integrate Indian business firmly within the global supply chain” and to “maximise job-creating investment rather than just financial inflows”. He pointed out that “the hostile rhetoric (from Washington) on trade protection that was evident in the past has been muted, now that Modi has taken charge and there is finally hope of a businesslike approach towards US-India ties”.

Senior officials pointed out that “President Obama did not wait for a formal declaration (appointing Narendra Modi as PM) but called him personally on 16 May as soon as the electoral verdict was clear”. He said that President Obama “wants to make a genuine strategic partnership with India among the most important parts of his foreign policy legacy, and towards that objective, wishes to engage intensively with Prime Minister Modi”.

Disappointing those who were hoping for a cool reception during the new Prime Minister’s first US visit in mid-September, it is now clear that Narendra Modi will be given a full dose of the legendary Obama charm. “The President has ensured that his entire team is on the same page on the question of welcoming and working with Prime Minister Modi, including senior officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry (who were earlier adopting the Bush-Clinton line on him),” a key source on Capitol Hill claimed.

Nisha Desai BiswalUS Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal arrived in Delhi from Beijing on the early morning of 7 June for meetings with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. She is expected to assure her Indian interlocutors that the bitterness of the past is now history, and that the Obama administration seeks to engage “closely and fully in a spirit of mutual interest and partnership” with Team Modi. – The Sunday Guardian, 7 June 2014

» Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat, holds the UNESCO Peace Chair and is Director of the Department of Geopolitics at Manipal University, India. A former Coordinating Editor of the Times of India, he writes extensively on security, policy and international affairs. Prof. Nalapat has no formal role in government, although he is said to influence policy at the highest levels. He is currently the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian and tweets at @MDNapalat.

2 Responses

  1. This is good news. There are many grounds for India and the US to be close on official level, as they are on person to person level. But such an approach was vitiated on both sides.Franklin Roosevelt was a genuine friend of India’s freedom struggle, and even stood up to Churchill.But the Dulles era made things bad, fully reciprocated by the Nehru-Krishna Menon combine. In the name of non-alignment, India became anti-US, and the US replied with their Kashmir card.There were genuine American well wishers of India like Ambassadors Chester Bowles and J.K.Galbraith, though the administrations have been unfriendly, if not hostile throughout. A student of Indo-US historical relations feels sad at the missed opportunities. People at both ends surely deserved better leadership.

    One hopes that this time, change from the US side is genuine and not a mere strategic stance.. Even so, some hard realities cannot be overlooked.. One is US-China closeness. Another is US-Pakistan ties,in spite of the Pak record on terrorism. Here the US claims on counter terrorism do not carry conviction. The US position on Kashmir is also openly anti-India. The US is the biggest supporter of Pakistan,even given its anti-India stand. Nor can we ignore that the American media is generally ill-informed on India, and is highly prejudiced against it. So is the American academy.( and its advocates, admirers, followers and beneficiaries in India) it will be splendid if the US can really deal with India as it is and will be under Modi.

    Above all, the US looks at India mainly with economic eyes.. This is not wrong in itself, provided India too can drive a bargain for mutual benefit. Modi is a strong believer in employment generation and local enterprise and it is to be seen how he will ensure this while accommodating US concerns on trade, FDI, etc. The present WTO and other arrangements are designed to serve US interests and one wonders how India will deal with them.

    All told, we seem to be heading for interesting times. One only hopes,it does not turn out to be in the Chinese sense!

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  2. Anonymous, thank you.

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