A new symphony in India’s US policy

Balbir Punj 

It’s not often in history that one leader builds an entire global policy by his perception or diplomacy, and takes the global community with him, except perhaps a handful of self-construed enemies. So, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi sealed the India-US strategic partnership in Washington, DC, recently, wherein he gave a stirring address to the US Congress, his plea to his audience was “to listen to a new symphony in play”, calling for the realisation of the full promise of the relationship, he had already laid the foundations of a new world order.
That is why he could convincingly declare his relationship with the US an “extraordinary” and term the US as “an indispensable partner”. This is no rhetoric that we usually associate with summit-level contacts, meant in each case for a domestic audience for cheers. In many key areas of the emerging global order, India-US partnership will now work together to achieve specific goals.
Both, the joint statement of the two leaders and Modi’s historic Congressional speech, highlighted the green technology adoption, implementing of the Paris agreement on climate change, measures to defeat terrorism by isolating those who promote terrorism, claim sanction for terror in the name of religion, defend freedom of maritime lanes especially in areas of tensions like Pacific Rim islands and in the Indian Ocean and increase world trade and mutual cooperation for it and open the doors for India into global action groups like Nuclear Supplier Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group and Wassenaar Group, despite the Chinese objection to it.
The reference in the joint statement about agreement for the US setting up six nuclear power reactors in India reveals that Modi’s diplomacy has finally overcome the strong differences between the two countries on the actualisation of the US companies-led nuclear power plants here. Details are not yet available.
Prime Minister Modi’s first challenge was to disentangle India-US relations from the complex differences over principles of civil compensation in case of a nuclear disaster. The previous Government had also left the relationship in tatters over what came to be known as Indian woman diplomat in New York being arrested by the US police. The turn round in the India-US relationship into an extra-ordinary partnership in specific goals ahead has also resulted in Modi getting his host to agree on removing almost all constraints on flow of American technology into India.
Importantly, this is in defence technology. This has been spelt out in the joint statement: “The US will continue to work towards facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies”. India will receive license free access to a wide range of dual use technologies.
“In support of India’s Make in India initiative and to support the development of robust defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain, the US will facilitate the export of goods and technologies….for projects, programmes and joint ventures in support of US-India defence cooperation”, the joint statement added.
This further implies now India can start making several defence equipments of US origin, partly or wholly in India, and also export these to third countries. India no longer will have to wait at the doors of Washington, DC to obtain even on cash payment sensitive weapons or dual technology items. It can now pick them up off the shelf.
Only when we contrast this with the almost endless negotiations that used to precede India getting weapons from the US in the past decades and Pakistan trying to scuttle such deals we do realise how big is this achievement. Besides, with this stated understanding between the political heads of the two countries, it will now be easier for India to make specialised weapons like guns, tanks, planes, naval ships in this country under the US license.
Close observers of Washington would not have missed the absence of any reference to Pakistan in the joint statement. The Prime Minister too avoided bringing Pakistan into his formal address to the US Congress except to reiterate that together India and the US will have to eliminate the threat of terrorism and declare that certain organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and others should be targeted in this elimination. The earlier practice of the US administration seeking to hyphenate Pakistan along with India whenever matters of one of the two were discussed in the Washington has now been replaced. Washington’s new strategy is to make its partnership with India stand on its own feet.

BALBIR PUNJeditorial article 1
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