• 16 June, 2024
Foreign Affairs, Geopolitics & National Security

PM Modi’s State Visit Reflects Deep-Rooted India-US Ties

Prof Madhav Das Nalapat Fri, 23 Jun 2023   |  Reading Time: 3 minutes

The State Visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States reflects the deep roots of the ties between the two largest democracies, India and the US. It was more than a century ago that immigrants from India began to settle in the US, and today there are nearly six million Indian Americans. They are a powerful bridge that helps to ensure that the overall relationship moves in a healthy direction. Prime Minister Modi understands this, and therefore ensures that he gives enough time in his schedule to meet with members of the Indian diaspora in the US. Very often, he is joined in such meetings by senior officials on the US side, who are happy to get an opportunity to reach out to the Indian-American community. Recently in Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was with Prime Minister Modi at a meeting of the Indian diaspora in Sydney, and the two have established a warm friendship. In the same way, Modi has had friendly relations with all three US Presidents he has worked with, namely Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now President Biden. Where India is concerned, there is no difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, as both favour close ties between the US and India.

In a democracy, it is common to see different voices being raised on the same subject. In the case of India, there are some in the US who do not favour close ties between their country and India, and who are unhappy that Modi has been given the honour of a State Visit and the opportunity of twice addressing a Joint Session of both Houses of Congress. Very few leaders have been given that honour. In a democracy, citizens have the freedom to express views in a peaceful manner even though their opinions are different from those held by the White House. Of course, there are many more people who welcome Prime Minister Modi’s visit, and they also will express their happiness in public at the State Visit in a peaceful manner. Such differing actions are common in a democracy, and in the relationship between democracies. There remain pending issues between the two sides that remain to be settled, but the importance of good relations between Delhi and Washington is important to both sides, and hence such differences will not affect the warmth of the relationship. A welcome development is that there is finally a US Ambassador to India after a gap of two years when the US embassy in Delhi was without a full-fledged Ambassador. President Biden has sent a close personal friend, Eric Garcetti, as the envoy to India, and as the Ambassador has direct contact with the White House, he can play a key role in ensuring that the relationship between India and the US reaches a high level during the Biden administration.

In a multilateral world any two countries will have some differences of opinion.  This is the case on some issues between Delhi and Washington as well. An example is Russia, which is regarded as an adversary by the Biden administration in a way that was the norm during the USSR-US Cold War (1945-91). In contrast, India had friendly ties with the Soviet Union in the past and continues to have friendly ties with the Russian Federation after the collapse of the USSR. This is the reason why India has not condemned Russia nor stopped buying goods from Russia, such as oil. Nor has India joined the western countries in imposing sanctions on Russia. Although such a stand caused some tension during the early months of 2022, soon the western countries understood the Indian position of continuing to have a friendly relationship between Moscow and Delhi, and have avoided any sanctions on India, knowing that such a move would have an adverse effect on public opinion in India towards the west, which is an essential partner of India.  As President of the G-20 during 2023, Prime Minister Modi is seeking to ensure that the developed countries give more assistance to the Global South, of which India is a part. A more equitable world order is a central theme of Indian diplomacy, which is focussed on ensuring that global institutions serve as neutral platforms rather than promote the interests of any one group of countries at the expense of others. India has always opposed a unipolar world order and supports a multilateral world order that ensures equality and justice to all countries big and small, rich or poor.

The June 21-23 State Visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US to meet President Biden is certain to deepen the already strong ties between Washington and Delhi. The Prime Minister will also have the opportunity of meeting US legislators in his address to the Joint Session of the US Congress, and this is welcome. In the US as in India, the Legislative Branch of government is co-equal with the Executive Branch. It is important to look at the big picture that shows the importance of close India-US ties in the 21st century rather than only concentrate on small issues on which the two sides may have differences of opinion.

Professor Madhav Das Nalapat is Director, Department of Geopolitics & International Relations at Manipal University, India.


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Kalidan Singh

Jun 27, 2023
Not as impressed with this as is the very learned Mr. Nalapat. First off, the GE 414 jet engine is 20 year old technology; it is not in either of the best aircraft US has got (F 35). I am not sure getting this tech is any kind of victory; it is equivalent to bringing Premier Padmini back with the same lawn mover engine it had, and shoddy machine work. Second, what is about to happen is that the whole world will scrutinize India just a tad bit more. This might get in the way of our endless hubris and self-aggrandization. Our major exports are still small worthless gems, leather, and cheap software; it is not sophisticated machines, chemicals, or high tech goods that command a premium in any market. We are playing footsie here while China is occupying more and more of our land, and we are delaying a clear agreement with the US. Hubris will not get us anywhere. Some hard cold analysis is sorely needed; and I see no evidence of this happening.

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