Why Modi has invested in US
Despite United States President Donald Trump’s quirks and differences, ties are robustUpdated: Sep 25, 2019 19:39 IST
After the showmanship of Houston, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump returned to the more nuanced world of diplomacy. At their press conference on Tuesday, there was continued bonhomie but also hints of traditional bilateral concerns. Ending the most substantial concern, avoiding a guerrilla trade war, remained elusive though India and the United States appear to be on track to resolving the remaining half-dozen tariff and market access. Mr Trump, in pursuit of his Nobel Peace Prize, continues to offer to mediate on Kashmir. However, the US president is now careful to indicate New Delhi has veto power over any conversation on Kashmir. His evasiveness on Pakistan’s support for terrorism is a reminder the US president stills sees utility in Pakistan.
Nonetheless, the degree of US’ diplomatic support to India in the battle over Article 370, the blacklisting of Masood Azhar, and the convergence evident in concepts like the Indo-Pacific are signs the bilateral relationship is robust. Mr Trump has many idiosyncrasies. Navigating them while maintaining the larger relationship has been a challenge for Mr Modi and other world leaders. Most of the remaining sources of bilateral friction, whether motorcycles or Iran, originate with the president and his quirky world view. Mr Modi’s investment in the Trump relationship signals his recognition that the US is overwhelmingly India’s primary international partner. It is India’s main source of foreign capital, technology and investments. It remains the favoured destination of Indian students and immigrants. The US provides much of the cutting-edge technology for India’s defence forces. It is the primary external partner on intelligence and counterterrorism assistance. Washington has also been prepared to throw its diplomatic weight behind India, even where China and Pakistan are involved. India’s new cluster of global friends, whether Japan, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, are all US treaty allies.
A new twist has been the rise of the US as a source of oil and gas. What matters less than actual shipments of hydrocarbons is that America’s shale story has suppressed energy prices to India’s advantage. This is a metaphor for what a closer relationship with the US provides India: the best possible geopolitical anchor in a time of remarkable international instability. Mr Modi has also understood it is the best external backer for his ambitious domestic agenda, ranging from the economy to technology. The US is the indispensable partner for the rise of India.