[youtube id=”P-C5ySMPK0U” mode=”normal”]The countdown has begun for the blockbuster diplomatic event of the year. Senior officials of India and the US are working overtime to ensure that the visit by President Barack Obama to India as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations (on January 26, 2015) will be a defining moment in the history of relations between the world’s oldest and largest democracies.
Ahead of the presidential visit, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar on January 10 and held wide-ranging discussions to firm up substantive outcomes during Mr Obama’s trip to India. Mr Kerry has identified four key areas which are expected to see a forward movement during the presidential visit. These include renewable energy and climate change cooperation agreement; the fast-tracking of the India-US nuclear deal; strengthening of the defence partnership agreement; and bolstering of the economic partnership.
With the US economy on a rebound and the Indian growth story getting a new shine under the reform-minded Modi government, India is expecting big-ticket investments from the US companies. During Mr Modi’s visit to the US last year, US companies had pledged over $40 billion investments in India, but hardly anything much has come in so far. The two sides are also expected to fast-track negotiations for Bilateral Investment Treaty, which could prove to be a game-changer in transforming their economic ties and scaling up bilateral trade five-fold to half a trillion dollars in the not-too-distant future. The forthcoming talks are expected to provide momentum to the India-US Infrastructure Platform, which was launched during Mr Modi’s Washington visit last year.
In the arena of defence, one can expect the two sides to renew their 2005 defence framework agreement for another 10 years and set the stage for transfer of defence technologies and co-production and co-development of cutting-edge weaponry.
Intensifying counter-terror cooperation will be a key theme of discussions, specially in the context of the volatile situation in the AfPak region and the unfolding transition in Afghanistan. Amid reports of terror threats targeting India, Mr Kerry has said that the two strategic partners will be looking to bolster their joint fight against terrorism.
Striking an upbeat note, Mr Kerry has conveyed that President Obama is really happy to be the first US President to be visiting India twice. For Mr Modi, getting President Obama to accept his invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations is nothing short of a diplomatic coup. This will be the first time an American president will be the chief guest on India’s national day, which signifies the shared strategic resolve to pitch the multi-dimensional relations onto a higher trajectory.
Having firmed up an ambitious blueprint entitled “Chalein Saath Saath, Forward Together We Go,” during his maiden visit to Washington in September 2014, Prime Minister Modi will be looking to get the US’ proactive support for his Make in India mission and the project of transforming India through smart cities. With an increasing congruence of interests across the spectrum, the defining partnership of the 21st century, as President Obama has said famously, is poised to scale new frontiers in the months to come.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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