INDIA-U.S Bond Against China, Red Carpet Obama Visit to Clear Nuclear Deal
Narendra Modi and Barack Obama
NEW DELHI: Sometimes it is not just the agreements signed, but the pre-meeting atmospherics that determine the success, or otherwise, of a high level visit. The success of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India is thus already pre-determined with officials on both sides pulling out the plugs to ensure that the agreements match the close cooperation that has already been set in motion by both Washington and New Delhi.
It is well known that the US has been keen to exploit the big market of India for a while, but resistance from elements in the Opposition through the years has prevented some of the grand dreams from being realised. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, usually seen as a walkover in the Congress party, asserted himself to a breaking point over the civilian nuclear energy agreement moved by him and then US President George W. Bush. The opposition to the nuclear deal was immense, and eventually despite all efforts it was stopped by the Nuclear Liability Law that was blocked in Parliament as a “sell out” to Westinghouse and GE.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ever since the little walk with President Obama around the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington has been working to remove the hurdles in the way of a burgeoning bilateral relationship between the two countries. India has more effectively, than even under Manmohan Singh, moved to cementing ties with Vietnam and Japan while blocking the expansion of China’s strategic footprint in South Asia to begin with. PM Modi changed his predecessors terminology from “Look East” to “Act East” leading to barely concealed applause from Washington. What is appealing to me and my colleagues is the fact that Prime Minister Modi has undertaken to build from what has been a 'Look East' policy to an 'Act East' policy," US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel said in Washington."He has shown in word and deed his interest in involving India in the thinking and the affairs of the broader region. That's very much to be welcomed."
This emerging alliance between India, Japan and Vietnam that is being consolidated at different levels by the Modi government has created unease in Beijing with its official media taking note of these developments from time to time.
However, as reported in The Citizen PM Modi has earned kudos for stopping, or at least trying to stop, China from gaining ground in South Asia. The coup effected by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (NSA Doval’s Cpup Against Rajapaksa and China in Sri Lanka http://thecitizen.in/NewsDetail.aspx?Id=2223&NSA/Doval's/) has effectively blocked Sri Lanka and China cooperation from accelerating. Sources said that the US had turned against former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on this account as well and was not keen to see him back in power. There was consternation in both Delhi and Washington when Rajapaksa allowed Chinese submarines to dock as what was seen as a step to allowing China a military base in Sri Lanka.
The new President Maithripala Sirisena has not only made sufficiently loud pro-India noises but also announced that he would review all contracts given to Chinese firms by the his predecessor. This includes a multi-crore sea reclamation development project with China, that New Delhi has been worried about for a while now given the focus on maritime security.
New Delhi has also been working on Bangladesh to check China’s entry into the neighbouring South Asian State. The Bangladesh government has signed several agreements with Beijing, including that of constructing and modernising the Chittagong port and build a deep seat port in the Sonadia island off Cox Bazaar. This is of worry to both India and the US, as it is seen as part of China’s string of pearl strategy and possible plans to establish a base in Bangladesh in the not so distant future.
Security that the media in New Delhi has been focusing on is completely in the hands of the US security teams that have arrived weeks before the visit, and are mapping and clearing the routes and the protocol. There is not much room for negotiations here, sources said, pointing out that the US security follows a rigid protocol that it does not allow even host countries to intervene in. Decisions will be taken not according to indian convenience, the sources said, but according to what “needs to be done” to secure President Obama’s safety and security during the three day visit.
Defence, trade and of course the vexed nuclear deal are all on the anvil as both Prime Minister Modi and President Obama will use the visit to capture the international spotlights. It is going to be a no-holds-barred visit, with the subsequent weeks actually revealing what are the real do-ables that emerge in real terms from the high decibel ceremonial event. We continue to be hopeful of implementing the civil nuclear agreement to fulfil the PM (Narendra Modi's) goal of providing electricity to all Indians by 2020," he said at an event here.
A Indo-US contact group of officials and representatives from Westinghouse and Ge as well, has been set up to work around the Nuclear Liability Law holding up the nuclear agreement between the two countries. The Indian liability law holds the suppliers directly liable in case of a nuclear accident, while the US and even France have been urging India to ensure that under law the operator is held liable. The contact group has reportedly made sufficient progress on a proposal for setting up an insurance pool by domestic Indian companies to let the US companies off the hook on this all important issue.
The nuclear deal that was seen as a flagship by former Prime Minister Singh fell through despite all his efforts. It is now in all probability going to be hailed as a flagship by PM Modi during the visit of President Obama with the US Ambassador to India Richard Verma exulting, "We continue to be hopeful of implementing the civil nuclear agreement to fulfil the PM (Narendra Modi's) goal of providing electricity to all Indians by 2020.”