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Modi's Debut
Will the U.S. Pivot to India?

Narendra Modi, who is emerging as the star of the UN General Assembly session and whose first steps on the world stage have been more impressive than the actions of many world leaders with much longer tenure in office, reminded the world in his speech over the weekend that India is a victim of terror and very much engaged in the global struggle against radical Islamic violence and terror. The NYT:

Twenty years ago, world leaders used to call it a “law and order problem,” he said, suggesting that only now had they had come around to understanding India’s concerns. “Some countries are giving refuge to international terrorists,” he said. “They consider terrorism to be a tool of their policy.”

Mr. Modi signaled his support for the United States’ renewed focus on fighting terrorism, and showed that he clearly understands the value of political symbolism. Even before he arrived at the United Nations, he paid a visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan. In his meetings at the White House scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, security and counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries is certain to be on the agenda, including a discussion of the American-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, administration officials said.

India’s two biggest strategic interests—fighting terror and promoting the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous Asia that China doesn’t dominate—coincide very closely with top American priorities and despite the spats and misunderstandings that from time to time flare up, this is the basis for far reaching cooperation between the world’s largest and the world’s oldest democracies.

India, one of the few countries where George W. Bush was widely popular, has from time to time had problems with the Obama Administration. Modi’s visit to the U.S. offers an opportunity for a fresh start on both sides. As Ambassador Nicholas Burns, one of the finest diplomats this country has produced, argued in a must-read piece in Foreign Affairs, a smart policy would “put India where it belongs: at the center of U.S. strategy in the region.” Let’s hope President Obama and Prime Minister Modi reach a meeting of the minds.

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  • Anthony

    “Modi has already demonstrated himself to be an unusually strong Indian leader, who will use his executive authority in a more hands-on fashion than did his predecessors.” Will United States pivot? There exist opportunity – as an aside, India spent $75,000,000 to go to Mars.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I agree, as the worlds largest democracy India should be America’s primary focus in that entire region. We should be using China’s belligerence to negotiate a very favorable economic and military alliance from India in the west to Japan in the east and from them south to Australia. That Obama isn’t seizing this opportunity is just more evidence of his incompetence.

  • Nathaniel Greene

    The fundamental problem with any proposed US/India alliance is that India still remains a strategic ally of Russia memorialized in the Ibo-Soviet Treat of Friendship and Cooperation of 1971 that specified mutual strategic cooperation. India has refused to criticize Soviet aggression in Ukraine and as recently as the July 2014 Brics summit in Brazil, Modi said the following:
    “Ask any child in India; who is India’s best friend? Every child will reply Russia.” “Friendship with Russia is a time-tested friendship. I look forward to work with Putin to further strengthen our ties in every sector, be it defence, technology or trade and investment.”
    Russia dominates the Indian Defense Industry despite recent US sales to it and the Indian Defense establishment and Foreign Ministry are still closely aligned with Russia. An Indian seat on the Security Council would only give Russia another vote.
    India has to make some concessions and start acting responsibly on the world stage before there can be any real convergence of interests between it and the United States.

  • Corlyss

    This administration still thinks Doofus can make a few fatuous statements that sound like a policy, then put foreign policy on autopilot. Why? Because Doofus don’t know nothing about birthin’ no foreign policy. At least Prissy was honest finally. Don’t wait for anything similarly frank and overt from Dear Leader.

  • Dhako


    I see you are in the business of searching the “containing partners” towards China. And this time around, it seems that you and the rest of the “geopolitical oracles” of the West saw a decent chance out of India playing that “fit-up” role against China to a tee. Or at least you are forever hoping that India whose economy, if it going to lift off, will largely depends on bilateral trade and heavy investment (particularly of infrastructure) from China, will soon join in the West as the “coalition-of-the-willing” to turn the table on China. And therefore the hope is that India will be a “volunteering-partner” that in turn will join in with the West so that, collectively, the tattered western-led international liberal order, can be shore-up, along the way.

    Sometimes, I think if you stop for moment and start thinking as to how others with their own “human agency” or “national interest” really view the world you would realize that outside of North America and EU, as well as Japan, and of course the non-entities state like Philippines, there is no a single (and I mean one single country) in the wider world who would “volunteer” for the business of “joining” the West in trying to “contain” China. Specifically when that act itself will mean that nation-in-question will lose its trade privileges and direct foreign investment from China.

    In other words, may be you haven’t notice it, but “Times” are changing. And most of the developing world (including India) are singularly beholden, either directly or indirectly, on Chinese national destiny. Which means, if China prospers (which is likely what she will do in the foreseeable future) they in turn will prosper in a manner unheard of before. And they will proper in a far greater proportion than the previous era, which was when the West was alone in the richness of wealth, and others were the “Wretched of the Earth” (as Mr Frantz Fannon, memorably have put). So, in that sense I do not begrudge (or even fault you) in your search for partners with West, who in turn will volunteer the containment business against China.

    But, still for what is worth, if I were you, I would not think India is a mug enough of a suitor to be bamboozle into believing that this silly idea of trying to contain China at the expense of her national economic interest is a good idea. But I am sure of it that Mr Modi (being a crafty Gujarati, who could smell a “easy deal” by a mile) will act interestingly and pretend to be deeply involved in with the thrust of the argument from Obama. Particularly, when that argument from Obama tells him to “join-in” with the West against China. And he will do that, so long as he is sure of the fact that at the end of Obama’s soliloquy about the “containment plans” he has for China, there will be a good news about how US’s government will look “favourably” towards US’s commercial nuclear transfer to India without “restriction”.

    So, in that sense, just as Modi felt the need to talk “tough” against China (even when everyone in India or in China knew he didn’t meant a word of it) for the ears of his Japanese listeners when he was with Abe of Japan in Tokyo recently,particularly just so that he can bag “few goodies” along the way back to India from the tight-fisted-hands of Japanese’s government, I am sure of it that he (Modi) will say all the “noises” that is required of him in this occasion, particularly those that will please his American’s host’s ears, specifically, so long as there is a “pay-day” for India at the end of that public relation posturing on his part alongside Obama at the White House.

    All in all, I hate to break to you, Walter, but India and China are destined (or to be brutally about it), are “condemned-to-be-partners”, come what may. And, in that sense, like most “long-term-partners”, each has a degree of “freedom” to talk silly (or even off-script) about the other one with concern third parties (particularly if the third parties in question will reward them for it). But, at the end of the day, most strategists of these two nations know the “score-of-their-destiny”, and they will act accordingly.

    And that is why before the end of next year their historical “border-issue” will be resolve (in India’s favour). And then Chinese infrastructure investment through the BRICS bank will be flooded into India, so that the common destiny these two old civilizations have with each other will be made a concrete and a “binding-reality”. While in turn, of course, the West (and America, in particular) could always be rely on to spout empty phrases like “values” and whatnot they share with India, as if those “pure-wind-stuff” are what makes nations to be partners of destiny with each other, particularly when a concrete national interest, such as trade, border, investment, or historical associations, are the stuff that binds China with India.

    Hence, we shall see how two competing vision of this century, which is western’s empty talk of “values” (that do not feed any hungry mouth the world over) will fare against the Chinese conception of a win-win bilateral trade, investment with other nation. And, of course, this “Chinese model” (unlike the valued-laden-American’s model) will in turn put before the millions, that is the teeming citizens of the world over, particularly those who used to be called the “wretched-of-the-earth” a decent square meal and a roof-over-their-heads. Consequently, let the competition of the century begin, I say.

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