For the first few minutes after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Obama spoke about Syria. And then about the new Miss America, an Indian American.
Soon after seeing off Singh, Obama was on the phone with the newly-elected Iranian president Husain Rouhani, for a historic breakthrough in relations between the two countries. That meeting on September 27 was the first substantive interaction between the two leaders in Obama’s second term — he had hosted Singh as his first state guest in his first term.
Despite what diplomats of the two countries say about the number of bilateral talks/dialogues under way currently, Obama’s second term has been rough for India. It started with the comprehensive reform bill as passed by the Senate. It is plainly and clearly discriminatory against Indian IT firms operating in the US, such as TCS and Infosys.
Though passed by the Senate, it had the backing and endorsement of the White House, despite repeated protests from India, from New Delhi and by its representatives in DC. India also found itself under attack over trade and business issues in a series of carefully orchestrated campaigns involving congress, the state department and the White House.
India has been under pressure to change trade and business practices found discriminatory by US businesses and their trade bodies, such as the US chamber of commerce.
Those issues were raised with India at every interaction — by secretary of state John Kerry when he was in New Delhi for the strategic dialogue, and by Obama at his meeting with Singh. But this is not to discount continuing dialogue and cooperation on other fronts, such as Afghanistan. The US has kept India in the loop on the drawdown at every stage, as promised.
And India’s request for cheap natural gas imports from the US — called a game-changer by senior India diplomats — has been met with the grant of two export permits recently.
But Nina Davuluri, the new Miss America?
Is she really the new measure of the state of ties between the two countries, which have struggled in recent years to recreate the magic of the nuclear deal.