Indo-US ties reaching new heights

US President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi, January 26 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi, January 26
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Statecraft is strange business. Not long ago, then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was a persona non grata to the United States on account of his alleged rights violations.
That’s history.
Now it’s all brisk business between the Gujarati political boss-turned-India’s Prime Minister and US President Barack Obama in an effort to take Indo-US ties to new heights.
During his last visit to the United States in September-October, Prime Minister Modi had come to strike a fine equation with the Obama administration and Congress, as well as corporate barons. Modi and the US president had a comprehensive dialogue on energy, health, space, women’s empowerment, trade, strategy and security. The two leaders took note of the fact that in the past decade their bilateral trade had grown almost fivefold to $100 billion and necessary steps could be taken to realize its potential to rise fivefold by 2020. They showed their determination to make progress in defense cooperation under the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) and renewable energy under the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE).  
During his recent visit to India, Obama and Prime Minister Modi came to issue three documents: a declaration of friendship with regular summits; a joint statement, “Shared Effort, Progress for all;” and a joint strategic vision on the Asia-Pacific and the Indian ocean region. The two leaders repeated their commitment to “disrupt” terror groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e- Mohammad, D Company and the Haqqani Network. They agreed to increase their bilateral anti-terror cooperation, intelligence sharing and maritime security.
New Delhi and Washington reached important agreements, including on the establishment of a hotline between them, the renewal of their ten-year Defense Strategic framework (2005) and the commercialization of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal (2008). Washington also assured New Delhi of its support to get membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australian Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).  
According to reliable media reports, under the new agreement on the nuclear deal India would not have to dilute its liability law.  Washington has agreed to transfer any risk assessment to the commercial operators and suppliers. Earlier, it had objected to India’s Compensation for Nuclear Liability and Damages law (2010). Washington’s argument was that this law placed responsibility for a nuclear disaster not only on the operator but also on the suppliers of equipment. Even a “third party” could drag the supplier to a court of law in India. The Indian law went beyond  the international  Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC). The new nuclear deal would enable India to conclude negotiations also with other fuel and reactor supplier countries, including Russia, France, Australia and Japan.
The renewed Defense Strategic framework covers the aspects of defense cooperation, including the Defense Trade Technological Initiative and the upgrade of their mechanism of joint military and naval exercises. New Delhi and Washington would now co-produce “pathfinder projects,” including next-generation Raven mini-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), roll-on, roll-off intelligence kits for C-130 transport aircraft and mobile electric hybrid power source. Of these, two projects are with American companies and two are with the government.
Indo-US ties also focus on economics: During his New Delhi sojourn President  Obama announced a slew of initiatives,  including $4 billion in loans from US banks, $2 billion in financing for India’s renewable energy projects and $1 billion from the US Exim Bank for project financing.
On his part, Modi assured American investors of a transparent business environment and tax regime and protection for their intellectual property. This would further boost Indo-US trade.
India’s exports to the US are still less than two percent of  America’s global imports. In order to improve this, New Delhi and Washington have agreed to restart discussions on a bilateral investment treaty. They will be setting up mechanisms to iron out their differences on intellectual property rights and a social security agreement – Indian professionals currently working in the United States have to undergo a tortuous process of obtaining H-1B visas and legal permanent status.
Besides, Washington has agreed to discuss “funding” for India’s target of 100GW of solar energy.
I hope the agreements reached during the Obama visit will take a concrete shape without much delay. An early implementation of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement (2008) is very important. Given the nature of the growing Indian economy and its futuristic profile, New Delhi today needs nuclear power on a very large scale. India has no alternative to nuclear energy right now. 
Washington needs to wholeheartedly support New Delhi’s proposed inclusion in the important select world clubs, including the UN Security Council. In addition, Washington’s present cooperation with New Delhi on combating Islamist terrorism has to be made more real than apparent. There is no distinction between "good terrorism and bad terrorism." Washington is yet to see the need to dismantle the various links Islamist terrorism has all over the world, including with elements in Pakistan’s army and  Inter-Services Intelligence.
I do wonder why Beijing would lose sleep over the growing Indo-US ties. In the wake of Obama’s visit, Beijing has reportedly cautioned New Delhi against falling into the “trap” being laid by the US to pit India against China, as part of its “pivot to Asia” doctrine. The Chinese apprehension is devoid of substance. Any ganging up of this kind is simply inconceivable in our times of growing ties among the world's nations.
Since the Mao-Nixon summit in the early seventies, the key doctrine of all forward-looking major powers, including China, has been to foster constructive engagement with each other. In the process, Beijing’s own relations with Washington have flourished. Ever since India’s then-Foreign Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China in the late seventies, New Delhi has adhered to the same doctrine vis a vis China, which has vastly improved Sino-Indian relations.
Prime Minister Modi knows the importance of China in the world today. He is highly unlikely to fashion the growth of Indo-US relations at the cost of Sino-Indian ones. I am sure India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj would stress this point in her interactions with important Chinese leaders during her current sojourn in Beijing.
The author is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.