'Modi's visit gives a chance to assess Indo-US strategic ties'

According to Ron Somers, the former president of US-India Business Council, the frequency of Modi-Obama engagements is a remarkable testament to show how far the two countries have come in deepening mutual respect for one another.

PTI| Last Updated: Jun 05, 2016, 17:51 PM IST

Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit here this week will focus on enhancing Indo-US security and diplomatic cooperation and offers a chance to reflect on how much the strategic partnership has grown during eight years of Obama administration, the State Department has said.

"We look forward to Prime Minister Modi's visit next week, which will include both a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President (Barack) Obama and a lunch at the White House," a State Department spokesman told PTI.

Since 2014, there have been six meetings and countless phone calls between Obama and Modi, and this visit "reflects the significance that the two leaders place on the natural alliance between the two largest democratic countries of the world", the spokesperson said.

According to the official, the discussions will focus on advancing the ambitious climate change and clean energy agenda, further enhancing security and diplomatic cooperation across the Indo-Pacific region, as well as supporting sustainable economic growth and prosperity in both the countries.?

"Modi's visit to Washington offers a chance to reflect on how much the strategic partnership between the US and India has grown over the course of this Administration ? following through on President Obama's goal to establish a 'defining relationship for the 21st Century' that will directly benefit our almost 1.6 billion citizens and increase cooperation to sustain and strengthen the global rules-based order both countries care deeply about," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Alyssa Ayres, who served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia from 2010 to 2013, said: "This visit appears designed to lock in further progress in important areas of US-India cooperation -- defence, climate/clean energy, homeland security, potentially cyber -- as a way to keep momentum going through the transition into a new US administration."

Currently a Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ayres hopes that Obama could endorse India's candidacy in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping as a means of signalling that the US wants to support India's economic growth and seeks a collaborative way to do so.

"I would anticipate seeing in particular the much- heralded logistics exchange agreement at last announced as a signal that strategic ties will slowly and purposefully continue to grow.

"As for status of the relationship, this visit reinforces the onward and upward progress that has continued across three US and three Indian administrations, and looks poised to do so in the years ahead," Ayres said.

Modi's visit is a "diplomatic milestone for US-India relations", said Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow of American Enterprise Institute.

Two years ago, when Modi was elected as the prime minister, observers worried that bilateral ties would suffer. Instead, Modi and Obama have revitalised the relationship and given it new purpose, he observed.

However, according to Dhume, expectations of this visit lean more toward symbolism than substance. The high point will be Modi's address to a joint session of Congress on June 8, he observed.

"Beyond that, I expect incremental progress in a raft of areas, but not too many breakthrough announcements. Two possible announcements: formalising a deal on Westinghouse nuclear reactors to be built in Andhra Pradesh, and the two countries signing a logistics agreement.

"On the whole, both Modi and Obama can take credit for taking the bilateral relationship to a place from which the next US president can take it forward," he said when asked about the status of the relationship.

According to Ron Somers, the former president of US-India Business Council, the frequency of Modi-Obama engagements is a remarkable testament to show how far the two countries have come in deepening mutual respect for one another.

"The durability and depth of the Indo-US partnership has never been greater," he said.

"Expectations for the visit among business leaders includes the hope of expanding strategic and commercial ties. Deepening US-India defence cooperation and advancing progress on the civil nuclear accord are key bellwethers to be watched," Somers said.

In a conference call with reporters, Richard Rossow, senior fellow and Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the only major headline that he could envision would probably be the signing of a Logistics Exchange Memorandum and the announcement of Westinghouse moving ahead in the civil nuclear sector.?

"I don't think you're going to see anything on the economic side that's going to raise people's eyebrows. There's still such a deep gulf between our positions on major trade issues and economic issues.

"So I think you may see ? if we don't get one of those two biggies done, it may be termed simply as consolidation and repairing ties with Capitol Hill leaders, and that would be about it," Rossow said.