TOI exclusive: Will President Obama walk that extra mile?


Prime Minister Modi, continuing his determined effort to upgrade the relations, has invited President Obama to attend this year’s Republic Day parade. President Obama too displayed his goodwill by accepting the invitation. It is now up to the two leaders to use the opportunity to chart out a road map for future.

Economics plays an important role in the relationship between the two countries. Prime Minister Modi is aggressively pushing forward a development agenda that requires massive investments from allover. The US can be one of the important countries to supplement the efforts and support this agenda. PM Modi’s vision of providing a better life to his people calls for massive investment in the fields of infrastructure, education, skill development, healthcare and manufacturing. He has taken several steps like raising caps to encourage FDI in many areas including insurance, real estate etc. Several infrastructure areas like roads, railways, ports, defence are also partially or fully opened up for foreign equity participation. Much awaited and much needed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act too have taken place bolstering investor confidence especially in the infrastructure areas.

The US has good scope to enter into these areas by enhancing its investments. The Indo-US bilateral trade stands at $ 100 billion today. Prime Minister Modi has ambitious plans for a ten-fold growth of Indian economy from present $ 2 trillion. That gives enormous scope for the bilateral trade also to grow from current figures to $ 500 billion as envisaged by the leaders of the two countries.

Besides economy and trade there are areas like counterterrorism and regional security, environment and climate change etc in which the two countries have a greater scope to cooperate. Climate change area is a potential minefield for both the countries. UN Climate Change regime talks are due for the end of this year in Paris where a new world order on climate change is expected to be announced. There is a lot of jostling taking place between the developed and developing countries over the reduction of hydrofluorocorbon – HFC emissions. Although the US has reasonably amended its position the concerns of the Third World countries over the emergence of an unequal regime remain relevant. India has been firmly opposing any unjust order in climate change regime so far. It can’t be complacent even at this stage of greater bonhomie with the US. It would be a better idea to designate a Special Envoy for Climate Change Negotiations and deploy aggressive PR in the next few months so that the UN member countries can be properly sensitized about the need for a just and equitable world climate regime.

Prime Minister Modi and US President Obama during the former’s visit to the US last year.
Counterterrorism and regional and homeland security are comparatively easier areas for India and US to cooperate. As two major democracies in the world with pluralist ethos and values the two countries recognise their responsibility to jointly work towards ameliorating the situation in West Asia, Middle East and Pak-Af regions. The rise of ISIL calls for a totally new approach by the democratic world especially in the light of the incidents in Paris and other European cities. Close to two thousand European citizens have reportedly joined ISIL in the last few months. Deradicalisation programs thus acquire greater significance and urgency.
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Besides ISIL, the two countries have to reach a common understanding about the situation in the Pak-Af region. So far the US’ stand on Pakistan has remained a matter of concern to India. Despite unequivocal evidence linking Pakistan with global terror the US has adopted ostrich approach going to the ridiculous extent of manufacturing Good Taliban-Bad Taliban distinction. In its eagerness to appease the potential trouble maker in the region the US has shown little sensitivity to the concerns of countries like India. As recently as last month the US Congress has again released $ 100 Billion aid to Pakistan brushing aside objections from many from within and without.

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