How PM Modi's US State visit elevates India's global standing - Hindustan Times
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How PM Modi's US State visit elevates India's global standing

ByManjari Chatterjee Miller
Jul 24, 2023 10:28 AM IST

Prime Minister Modi's visit to the US resulted in significant wins for both countries, showcasing their close partnership and their concerns about China

Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s four-day State visit to the United States (US) was important. Modi was not only feted with a welcome ceremony and state dinner, but was also invited to address the US Congress for the second time. These high-profile events were intended to reflect the two countries’ shared commitment to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and signify that the US sees India as a critical partner. Judging by the attention paid to Modi’s arrival and the deals announced, both countries came away with winning outcomes, singly and jointly.

 PM Modi was also persuaded to take two questions in a joint press conference with President Biden. (ANI/PIB) PREMIUM
PM Modi was also persuaded to take two questions in a joint press conference with President Biden. (ANI/PIB)

For India, the honours bestowed on Modi — a man who was once denied a visa over the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat — showed to the world that far from being a pariah, he is now the powerful and accepted leader of a valued partner country. The US also offered concrete wins. The Biden administration promised to help India increase the production of electric vehicles and meet its goal of installing 500 gigawatts of wind, solar, and other renewable energy this decade. US memory chip firm Micron Technology will invest up to $825 million in a new chip assembly and test plant in Gujarat, which will be its first factory in India. On immigration, which has been a thorny issue, Washington agreed to allow a small number of Indians on H-1B visas to renew them in the US without travelling abroad.

The US, too, made symbolic and material gains. In terms of symbolic wins, the US was able to showcase its close partnership with India — a country that also shares its deep anxiety about the spectre of a rising China — and highlight the exchange of effusive warm statements between President Joe Biden and PM Modi a mere two days after the former labelled Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator.” 

There were also material wins. Indian solar panel maker Vikram Solar Limited will invest up to $1.5 billion in the US solar energy supply chain. India also agreed to join the US-led Artemis Accords on space exploration and will work with NASA on a joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024. In a huge political win for the Biden administration, India will remove retaliatory tariffs imposed on US products such as chickpeas and apples without the expectation that Washington DC will remove its own tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that had initially led to these retaliatory tariffs.

Perhaps most importantly, both countries scored wins in their defence and strategic partnership. US company General Electric signed a memorandum of understanding with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to produce fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force. While the deal is subject to congressional approval, this is a huge step both for India, which can domestically manufacture fighter jets but not the engines to power them, and for the US, which is very choosy about the sharing of military technology. 

Moreover, India’s defence ministry approved the purchase of armed MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones (a type of predator drone) made by General Atomics, which will enhance the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities of India’s armed forces across domains. Currently, only some US allies own Predator drones. The two countries also established a Joint Indo-US Quantum Coordination Mechanism to facilitate joint research between public and private sectors and launched the INDUS-X partnership to expand their strategic technology and defence industrial cooperation. India agreed to join the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), a US-led partnership with twelve other countries plus the European Union, to create critical energy minerals supply chains.

Finally, and significantly, PM Modi was also persuaded to take two questions in a joint press conference with President Biden. Although the two leaders sidestepped public critique and offered awkward answers to a US reporter’s question about democracy and human rights (the less-loaded second question from an Indian reporter was about the climate crisis), the fact that Modi, who has not held a public press conference in nearly a decade, agreed to respond to reporters at all was a further indication of how important the bilateral relationship has become for both nations.

 

Manjari Chatterjee Miller is Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, an Associate Professor of International Relations at Boston University, and the author of Why Nations Rise. This piece originally appeared on Asia Unbound at Cfr.org and can be read here

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