The landmark visit of US president Barak Obama to the largest democracy in world last week does reflect India’s growing influence in the new world order. The exchange of vociferous bonhomie between the visiting president and Prime Minister Modi is not only an affirmation of India’s growing economy and its potential but in fact a loud message to neighbouring China, challenging its role as the only Asian superpower.
The newly showered patronage on Hindutva champion Modi, whom the US state department held responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” for his alleged role in Gujarat riots some years back, is suggestive of US’s urgency to look for a regional ally in South Asia to counter the growing influence of China in the region. In fact a reference, albeit veiled, to the growing assertiveness of China was made when the two leaders emphasized the “importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea”. The visit obviously annoyed China with the media in country downplaying the significance of agreements made between Obama and Modi, some even suggesting that the visit is aimed at denting Sino-Indian relations.
But to its credit, India did manage to clear away certain bottlenecks that had hit the India-US nuclear deal signed in 2006. India’s concern over the liability part of the agreement in case of a disaster and US firms’ demands on the whereabouts of the nuclear raw material supplied were resolved. Apart from the commitment of two leaders to make the civil nuclear agreement workable, the two leaders pledged to boost the trade and cooperation on several fronts.
Apart from the economic benefits of the deal, the two countries may derive in future, the US president didn’t seem to garner enough courage to talk about pressing issue of the region; the issue of security in South Asia and the relationship between India and Pakistan. India’s arch rival Pakistan has been US’s strategic partner since cold war days and lately in the global fight against terrorism. The two countries have a robust information sharing system in place particularly with regard to terrorist activities.
With India crying hoarse over its vulnerabilities to terrorist activities partly in an effort to get close to US intelligence agency for information sharing and partly to strengthen its case against Pakistan, the US India deal may bring in some distaste in US-Pakistan relations. This is when all is not well with India Pakistan relations. The two countries have been exchanging fire across LOC as well the international border on a regular basis now, besides the offensive statements issued by leaders on both the sides. US has always been supportive of peaceful relations between India and Pakistan, but then US’s economic interests in India seem to overshadow its concerns for the security of South Asia. The most critical aspect of India Pakistan relations is obviously the Kashmir dispute and historically US has maintained a certain standard in its policy towards Kashmir. With an eye on the huge market that India has turned into particularly for its defence needs, Obama’s stature turned to be short for a real statesman and a true world leader, when he failed to mention Kashmir, the question that has evaded an answer for the last more than sixty years. The American ideals of justice, liberty and human rights does seem to lose their worth in the maze of economic pursuits by its leaders.