Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the US for his fourth visit in two years. During his stay, the Prime Minister will hold a two-hour long meeting with US President Barack Obama, address the US Congress, try to take the civil nuclear deal forward and also strengthen defence ties.
Here are six reasons why the visit is important:
1) Small window to get things done
Modi is one of the few world leaders that Obama has invited to the White House as he enters the last lap of his presidency. The US is in the middle of an election year. In a couple of months, all big decisions will be on hold, waiting for the new President, who will be sworn in on January 20. Going by all indications, the new administration will have its hands full. India and the rest of Asia will not be its immediate concern, though the story would be different if Hilary Clinton goes on to become the first woman president of the US. The two sides have barely three months to get a move on key issues, with the vote due on November 8.
2) India’s NSG membership
India is trying hard to be part of global export control regimes such as the nuclear suppliers group (NSG) and missile technology control regime.
Obama and Modi are expected to discuss India’s bid for the NSG, a 48-member club of nuclear trading nations. On Monday, Switzerland agreed to back New Delhi but India will need the US on its side to win over China, Ireland, Austria and New Zealand. The NSG membership is obtained through consensus.
It will not be easy but India is counting on the clout the US wields to get a toe hold in these strategically important groupings. MTCR looks more doable, provided Italy comes on board. With the marine issue no longer an irritant, India has a fair shot at MTCR that will help it export hi-tech missiles and buy predator drones from the US.
3) Clean energy
Modi has taken the issue of clean energy to the global stage, announcing an international solar alliance during last year’s UN climate change conference in Paris.
Obama needs Modi’s help to save the climate deal. He can’t get the senate to back the pact but would need help from countries such as India, China and Brazil to ensure that the pact clinched after marathon talks doesn’t fall flat. If India ratifies the Paris deal, it will go in favour of Obama who is keen on leaving a climate legacy behind. Modi will seek technology from the US for clean energy.
4) Technology transfer in defence sector
Though strategic partners for years, the two countries don’t have deep defence ties. The logistics support agreement that the two countries have agreed to in principle is expected to be signed during Modi’s visit. India has some reservations about the accord that will enable both militaries to use each other’s assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies. The two sides are keen to address it.
Modi wants defence manufacturing to headline his government’s Make in India initiative and it will not be possible without the Americans delivering on the promise of technology transfer.
5) Push for civil nuclear energy cooperation
It’s been more than seven years that India and US signed the landmark civil nuclear deal but nothing much has moved since. The two countries are yet to sign a full commercial contract and this visit might change it. American firm Westinghouse and state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd are closing on a deal to build six nuclear reactors in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam.
6) Countering terror
The two sides are expected to strengthen partnership to counter terrorism. Modi is expected impress upon the US the need to ensure that peace talks with Taliban remain an Afghan-led process. New Delhi is concerned about Pakistan influencing the process in ways inimical to Indian interests.