Modi will play a wait-and-watch game with ‘Frenemy’ USA

21 May-2014, Rajeev Sharma: The United States, the world’s sole superpower and a country which happens to be India’s largest trade partner with annual bilateral trade over $ 100 billion, ought to be the country’s highest foreign policy pole. But it isn’t. Under the new dispensation of Narendra Modi, this scenario is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Modi will play a wait-and-watch game with ‘Frenemy’ USA

Modi will play a wait-and-watch game with ‘Frenemy’ USA


The reasons are far too many and virtually all of these are predicated on the United States’ India policy rather than the other way round. Top irritants in the Indo-US bilateral relations are: the Devyani Khobragade episode, the surveillance and snooping issues, the American stand on several contentious WTO issues and trade practices, Washington’s questionable protectionist tactics as well as visa policies for Indian professionals, the attitude of the US-led West towards the ongoing Ukraine crisis, and the American policies on Afghanistan-Pakistan region and Iran, to name a few. These are just a few areas where New Delhi and Washington do not appear on the same page and perhaps never will. The Americans have betrayed a headstrong policy of bossing around everybody, including India. The UPA government did not buckle under the American pressures. Instead it turned heat on the Americans on the Khobragade incident as the Americans miscalculated that the poll-bound UPA government would chicken out. It did not; but it also refrained from taking the Americans head on. But that was the old order. Now the US has to deal with a new political order in India. The Americans are now up against India’s new strongman Narendra Modi for the first time since they dealt with Indira Gandhi, famously described as the only male in her cabinet. The Modi government is expected to be deal with the US in a far different manner.

Modi’s template with regard to India’s US policy should be like this: wait for the American initiative and then respond. No, it does not concern anymore about the American visa issues with regard to Modi. These issues were sorted out on 16 May itself when Modi emerged with a clear majority for his party BJP in the Lok Sabha, a political landmark notched up by any single party for the first time in three decades.

On Saturday, US President Barack Obama congratulated Modi on the BJP’s “success in India’s historic election” and invited him to visit Washington ”to further strengthen our bilateral relationship”, thus signaling end of a decade-long American boycott of Modi. The Americans could have done better and opened out to Modi sooner than they did eventually. They did not. They waited till the election results came and the inevitability of Modi as Indian PM struck full blast in their face. Obviously this complete misreading of the Indian tea leaves by the Americans cost Nancy Powell her job as the American ambassador in New Delhi. It is only now that the White House has come out with a statement on Saturday saying thus: “The president called prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi today to congratulate him on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s success in India’s historic election. The president noted he looks forward to working closely with Mr. Modi to fulfil the extraordinary promise of the US-India strategic partnership, and they agreed to continue expanding and deepening the wide-ranging cooperation between our two democracies. The president invited Narendra Modi to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship.” This may well be too little, too late. America as the only superpower of the world should have done much better and much earlier.

Another voice emanated almost concurrently from the US, this time from the State Department, America’s foreign ministry. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki went on record saying that American visa won’t be a problem for Modi. Psaki was quoted as saying thus: “The prime minister of India will be welcomed to the United States. As head of government, Mr. Modi would be eligible for an A-1 visa.” Incidentally, Secretary of State John Kerry has also offered his congratulations and said he looked forward to “working with the BJP on expanding our shared prosperity and security.” But by the time the Americans threw in the towel vis-a-vis Modi, one thing appeared certain – that a Modi government would hardly be much bothered about resuming bilateral relations as if nothing has ever happened between the world’s largest and the world’s most powerful democracies. Modi has been on the same page as the UPA government on the Devyani Khobragade issue and had told Nancy Powell when she called on him at his Gandhinagar office earlier this year that the Americans had ruffled the Indian feathers in this context and that this irritant had to be removed at the earliest. The Americans have done nothing in this regard. And it doesn’t seem likely that Modi will melt like an ice-cream and change his stand over the Khobragade episode. It is not as if India alone needs the US. The vice-versa is equally true. Indian companies have invested $ 33 billion in the US and helped the American economy and job market in a big way Why should Modi be in a tearing hurry to accept Obama’s invitation and visit the US? The chances are that he won’t. Perhaps a meeting between Obama and Modi at a neutral venue on the sidelines of a multilateral event would inject some clarity on the future trajectory of Indo-US relations as the US has emerged more of a ‘frenemy’ than a ‘global strategic partner’ it claims to be for India.
This is something that would unravel during the course of time. Modi won’t be in any hurry. The Americans would soon realise that.

(Input source: FirstPost)

Posted by on May 21, 2014. Filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.