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US keen to Modi-fy ties with India, eyes $500 billion trade

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In the end, the winner takes it all, and Washington, which once shunned Narendra Modi, has rolled out a charm offensive to court the new leadership in Delhi and set an ambitious target of scaling up India-US bilateral trade five-fold to $500 billion.

In a gesture that seems to put all that talk of plateauing in the India-US relations behind, US Secretary of State John Kerry became the first foreign minister to call and congratulate Sushma Swaraj May 28, the day she took charge of India’s external affairs ministry.

Secretary Kerry spoke warmly about “re-energising” India-US ties and said he looked forward to welcoming Swaraj, India’s first female foreign minister in decades, to the US in the near future.

In her conversation, Swaraj underlined the importance India placed on its strategic partnership with the US and discussed the way forward to revitalise what has been called by US President Barack Obama as “the defining partnership of the 21st century.”

The two ministers discussed the prospects of enhancing bilateral trade and economic ties and hoped that they could raise it to US$ 500 billion from the current US$ 100 billion, said official sources. The focus on stepping up bilateral trade in the first high-level contact between New Delhi and Washington after the Modi government was sworn in on May 26 indicate that the economic relationship is headed for a major upswing amid hopes that the BJP government, armed with a solid parliamentary majority, will bite the bullet on the much-delayed second generation economic reforms.

Iswaraj-officen an earlier message, Kerry had conveyed that the Obama administration was looking forward to welcoming India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi to Washington.  Swaraj is expected to travel to Washington in July for the annual India-US strategic dialogue, which could set the stage for a possible bilateral visit by Modi to the White House later this year. If Modi goes to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, there is a strong possibility that he could be invited to the White House for his first summit with Obama.

The US’ sudden surge of optimism for Modi only proves the time-tested adage that nothing succeeds like success. Till only a few months ago, the US was circumspect about engaging Modi, who was denied a visa and was something of a pariah for Washington’s liberal establishment for his alleged inaction during the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots. But ever since the Modi-led BJP won a blockbuster victory in India’s general elections, giving a political party in India a cushy majority for the first time in three decades, the Obama administration has been in the forefront of courting India’s new leader who is known to be pro-reform and business-friendly.

In fact, the phone has not stopped ringing with an unending stream of congratulatory messages for Prime Minister Modi and Foreign Minister Swaraj since they took charge. “The world dials in 2 India!” tweeted Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of India’s foreign office. At last count, the foreign ministers of the USA, South Africa, Israel, UAE, Canada and Australia had telephoned Swaraj and placed their bets on the India Story.

 

 

 


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Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, a portal and e-magazine focused on international affairs, emerging powers and the India Story.

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