Obama’s Meetup With Modi


Bruce Einhorn checks in on the summit:

The visit is Obama’s second to India as president, and relations are clearly warming. The two leaders on Sunday announced a deal on civilian nuclear projects after years of delays. The U.S. will drop its insistence on tracking nuclear fuel sold to India to ensure it’s not used for military purposes, and in return the Indians will set up an insurance pool (initially funded at $122 million, with more money to come later) to shield from liability nuclear power plant suppliers such as General Electric and Westinghouse Electric.

Howard LaFranchi gets at the mutual importance of the trip Obama and Modi:

[J]ust as India figures prominently in Obama’s “rebalancing” of US interests to Asia, the United States is emerging for Modi as a key partner in his efforts to revitalize a stagnant economy and to reinforce India’s position in the region and on the global stage.

Inviting Obama to be the first US president to participate in India’s Republic Day celebrations “was Modi’s way of signaling the US really looms large in his calculations on where he wants to take India,” Mr. Tellis adds. Still, Modi is not likely to take any steps that compromise India’s tradition of a firmly independent foreign policy. How he builds closer ties with the US while preserving India’s partnership with Russia will offer clues to India’s way forward, regional analysts say.

In addition to Obama’s unprecedented attendance of the Republic Day festivities, there were also bear hugs, the symbolism of which was not lost on Harsh V. Pant:

[What’s] important is how the anti-Americanism of the Indian political class is [now] a thing of the past. Even when the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee was trying to structure a partnership with the US, and the UPA under Manmohan Singh was trying to take that forward, the anti-western hypocrisy of the Indian establishment was jarringly evident. The BJP’s old guard led the charge to make the passage of the civil nuclear deal difficult, and then worked to bring in a liability law that did so much damage to Indian interests. The Indian Left, Right and Center all colluded in this charade. Washington was needed when it came to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China, but swords would be out if any Indian leader dared to make a case that a strong partnership was in the interest of India. All in the name of good old-fashioned non-alignment! …

Modi has put an end to that nonsense. His bear hug to Obama is a reflection of the reality that only a minority in India have been able to time and again articulate: there are no real substantive issues dividing the two countries. For sure, there are differences, but they are on tactics.

Sadanand Dhume thinks ahead:

[J]ust because the stars appear to have aligned at the moment for Obama and Modi does not necessarily mean that they will remain permanently aligned. At its core, the US bet on Modi is that he will revive India’s economy, deepen its engagement with fellow democracies, and steer clear of domestic strife. …

Nonetheless, there’s no question that Modi has forced India back on Obama’s foreign policy agenda. He has raised expectations that he is a new kind of Indian leader – unafraid to break some geopolitical crockery while pursuing his goals. If Modi continues to reform the economy and revitalise Indian diplomacy, his honeymoon with Washington will only lengthen. The consequences for India, Asia and the world could be huge.

Neil Bhatiya is impressed with the progress the two leaders made on energy and climate change:

For the U.S., Obama received assurances that India would participate constructively in building consensus toward a strong agreement in Paris later this year (where the global community will try to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol), though what that would actually look like remains to be seen. What matters is that, in the wake of the U.S.-China agreement, India is responding to shifting norms by trying to appear proactive and refraining from going out of its way to highlight historic divides between developed and developing countries over responsibility for cumulative greenhouse gas emissions. While it maintains its prerogative to place economic development on a higher pedestal that environmental sustainability in the short term (meaning it will still exploit its domestic coal reserves), over the long term it realizes it has a significant role to play in being some kind of a model of de-carbonization.

Rebecca Leber isn’t as impressed:

Obama and Modi’s announcements related mostly to clean energy, with the exception of a “breakthrough” on nuclear energy. India reaffirmed its commitment to phase out hydrofluorocarbonsused in coolants and aeresolsand is seeking private investments to meet a domestic goal of producing 100,000 MW of solar power by 2022, which is 33 times more than its current rate of production. By announcing a flurry of new clean energy and finance task forces and initiatives, Obama and Modi say they are working to reduce the trade barriers between the nations.

It’s notable that, unlike China, India has made no promises to cut its emissions, and Indian officials say they won’t back away from coal. The country is also unlikely to make that promise when it submits a domestic climate plan to the United Nations by June, ahead of the Paris summit.

But Leber also understands Modi’s domestic challenges, like bringing power to 300 million people and dealing with the country’s pollution problems.

(Photo: Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi shakes hands with US President Barack Obama. By Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)