US President Mr. Barack Obama’s India visit from January 25 to 27, 2015 turned out as one of the most substantive and historic engagements between the two countries. Mr. Obama backed India to play a bigger role on global issues as he reiterated support to India’s contention for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council. There were many important takeaways during Mr. Obama’s India visit. The most important of these are:
The end of the nuclear logam was a big takeaway because it was alone acting as a barrier in deepening strategic ties. India did not give in to any pushy monitoring of its nuclear facilities and supplies and removed the liability hurdle through an insurance pool without diluting its liability law. It remains to be seen though if a nuclear accident victim retains the right to sue suppliers as envisaged in the law. But with the governments out of the way, it is over to businesses to do a cost-benefit analysis for building nuclear reactors in India.
The two governments issued a joint strategic vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean in what may be one of the most significant foreign policy statements by the Modi government. Together with last year’s Modi-Obama joint statement, it shows that Prinse Minister Mr. Narendra Modi is not averse to an eventual merger of India’s Act East and USA’s Asta pivot. Mr. Modi is himself said to have been very keen on signing the China-centric strategic vision after he shared his fear of an “expansive” China with Mr. Obama. This is a considerable shift from the stand of the UPA administration which was more inhibited about endorsing the US pivot to Asia.
India and the US renewed their broad 10-year defence framework, with the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) being the key new element. Under it, the two have chosen four relatively modest military products–Raven mini-UAVs, aircraft reconnaissance modules, mobile electric power sources and soldier protective gear, for co-development and production. The two nations have also agreed to set up two working groups to explore development of aircraft carrier technologies and jet engines, which are more high-end.
The decision to elevate the strategic partnership with a Declaration of Friendship strengthens and expands the relationship between India and the US. Among other things, it also envisages regular summits. Signalling the natural affinity enjoyed by the two nations, as the White House said in a press release, this declaration proclaims a higher level of trust and coordination that will “continue to draw the two governments and people together across the spectrum of human endeavour for a better world”.