Ties to the next level

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Manju Shukla
Date  01/10/2014

After discussions that ran overtime by about an hour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama decided to take the India-U.S. relationship “to the next level,” saying the “true potential of the relationship has yet to be realised.”

Mr. Modi, who briefed journalists after the meeting, said: “My discussions have confirmed for me that India and the U.S. are natural global partners.”

Mr. Obama said he was impressed with Mr. Modi’s interest in not only addressing poverty in India and revitalising the economy there but also his determination that India helped bring about peace and security in the world.

“I want to wish him luck in what I’m sure will be a challenging but always interesting tenure as Prime Minister in India,” the President said. In the joint statement, while India did not accede to the U.S. request to join the international coalition against ISIS, the two sides agreed on several ways to enhance cooperation on terror.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington. King`s movement to end segregation and racial discrimination in the United State was inspired in part by Mahatma Gandhi`s nonviolent campaign of freedom for India from the British Empire.

The agenda between the U.S. and India — the world`s oldest and largest democracies — also includes trade policy,counter-terrorism, energy development, health policy, and space exploration.

Many officials also see India as a pro-American counterweight to the military and economic rise of China.

"It`s a long-term project, but a very important one," said Nicholas Burns, a professor of international relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. As a high-ranking State Department official during the George W. Bush presidency, Burns was the lead negotiator of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement.

The U.S.-India relationship has "kind of slowed down" in recent years, Burns said, in part because the Obama administration has been dealing with crises that include Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Russia.

India, meanwhile, has undergone a political transition that led to the election of Modi, a controversial figure in some quarters.

The U.S. has denied Modi a visa over protests regarding his alleged role in 2002 riots in the Indian state of Gujarat. Modi, the top official in Gujarat at the time, denied wrongdoing.

The Obama-Modi summit "was kind of a break-the-ice meeting," Burns said.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Obama and Modi said that "our relationship involves more bilateral collaboration than ever before," but "the true potential of our relationship has yet to be fully realized."

They said their goal is "to find mutually rewarding ways to expand our collaboration in trade, investment and technology that harmonize with India`s ambitious development agenda, while sustaining the United States as the global engine of growth."

Obama hosted Modi at a private White House dinner on Monday. Modi, who is in the midst of a religious fast, had warm water, according to the Indian government.

Congressional Republicans also back stronger relations with India.

In an op-ed for The Hill, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, described the U.S. and India as natural allies, "whether it is managing the rise of China, combating terrorism, stabilizing Afghanistan or protecting the free movement of people and cargo on the high seas."

After the Oval Office meeting, Obama said Modi is addressing "the needs of the poorest of the poor in India, and revitalizing the economy there." He also praised the Indian leader for "his determination to make sure that India is serving as a major power that could help bring about peace and security for the entire world."

Modi, who has been in the United States for four days, said he has seen "extraordinary interest" in the India-U.S. partnership.

He added, "we will draw strength and inspiration from it as we start a more purposeful course in our ongoing journey."


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