Keeping up the tempo
The Indian-American community has played a big role in bringing the the US and India together in the recent years.
INDIAN ARTIST Harwinder Singh Gill Photo: Reuters
President Barack Obama’s victory in the November 6 US presidential elections has
sure set hearts and tongues aflutter in many parts of the world, India being no
exception. When Obama assumed office in January 2009, there were grave doubts in
India as to whether he would follow in the footsteps of George W.
his predecessor, who had pushed Indo-US ties to the next level with the landmark
Indo-US nuclear deal.
However, one of the first signs of Obama’s desire
to continue the momentum in Indo-US ties came when Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh became the first state guest of the Obama
administration in November 2009. There has been no looking back ever
Obama paid a landmark visit to India in November 2010 where he
openly backed India for a seat as a permanent member of the United Nations
Security Council (UNSC), something no other US president had been willing to
offer, not even George W. Bush.
In July 2009, in another first, a
“Strategic Dialogue” was initiated between India and the US during the visit of
the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to India.
Obama also tightened
the screws on Pakistan, much to the delight of India, which has been at the
receiving end of terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil. During Obama’s tenure,
India and the US have also collaborated in countries like Afghanistan, where
India is a major donor, having already committed nearly $2 billion in
reconstruction and development aid.
Another area which saw remarkable
progress during Obama’s first term is US-India defense ties. India has placed
orders worth over $8 billion for defense equipment from US manufacturers during
the past decade, many of which came during Obama’s first term. The armed forces
of the two countries have also held a series of joint exercises, something
unimaginable during the Cold War-era.
Prime Minister Singh has also
developed a close personal rapport with Obama, which will be very useful now
that Obama has been re-elected. In fact, in his congratulatory message to Obama,
Singh noted that “I have personally valued our friendship and I look forward to
continuing our rewarding association in order to build further on the enduring
foundations of our shared values and the accomplishments of the past four
During the Obama presidency, India has also inched closer to US
allies like Japan and Australia. For the first time in their history, India and
Japan held bilateral naval exercises in June this year, while during her recent
official visit last month to India, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
announced that Australia would be willing to consider supplying uranium to India
(in a big turnaround in Australian foreign policy since India has not signed the
Growing Chinese aggressiveness has raised concerns in many
countries, including in India, which has a long, unsettled border with China.
Beijing is currently undergoing a process of political transition and New Delhi
would benefit by having a known hand in Washington, DC.
BESIDES, WITH the
opening up of countries like Myanmar, there are new opportunities for India and
the US to work together. During his address to the Indian Parliament when he
visited India in November 2010, Obama chided India for not doing enough to
promote democracy in countries like Myanmar.
Obama’s victory also augurs
well for the Indian-American community in the United States, who number almost 3
million and constitute the second largest Asian community in the United
The Indian-American community has played a big role in bringing
the two countries together in the recent years.
However, there were some
areas where India and the United States had differences of opinion during
Obama’s first term. One was of course Iran, regarding which the Obama
administration wanted India to take a stronger stand. India could not go “whole
hog” as Iran is a major supplier of oil to India. However, India did reduce oil
imports from Iran and has begun looking at other Gulf countries to meet the
Another sore point was when American firms lost out in the $10
billion MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal to supply aircraft to the
Indian Air Force.
Obama’s electoral victory augurs well for India as it
would require continued American backing if it were to get into the United
Nations Security Council as a permanent member, and also in its quest for
membership in bodies like the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, Missile Technology
Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement, etc.
One area where Obama’s
re-election could work to the detriment of India is in the field of outsourcing,
where the Obama campaign advocated a strong anti-outsourcing stance. However,
Obama knows more than anyone else that if the faltering American economy is to
be brought back into shape, it is important to cut costs in some sectors and
this is where India could chip in.
India can look forward to increased
cooperation with the United States under Obama’s leadership, but there will
still be areas where the two countries will politely agree to
The writer is an assistant professor of International Relations
at the School of Liberal Studies, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, India.
He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for International Studies, the
University of Cambridge, UK, and at the Japan Institute of International Affairs
(JIIA), Tokyo. The views expressed are personal.