For PM Narendra Modi, the privilege of addressing the Joint session of the US Congress must be satisfying, very satisfying. He is the kind of man who relishes few things in life – but this he will relish.
The witch hunt that prevented a democratically elected Indian chief minister from visiting the US has come full circle.
However, nagging worries remain. The US funded civil society mafia and a small Indian echo chamber that just cannot understand how the demos elected the man - still work in conjuncture and this is a cause of great mistrust to probably the most important partnership in the free world. Ironically, the same echo chamber loved Obama’s election to the presidency. The shrill resident non-Indians will hear the Indian PM address the joint session of the US congress with a sense of personal loss and betrayal! The US needs to back off with this covert hedging strategy - it is coming in the way of building a future for the free world. Just last week India put three more US NGO entities on a watch list.
A new momentum
The US-India relationship is set for bigger things not withstanding who wins the next US election. It is the reality of the times. The two nuclear-armed, maritime democracies have the capability and systemic compatibility to take on both totalitarian regimes and Islamic terror threats.
Thus, politics may intervene here and a trade related or human rights driven hiccup may occur there – yet the coming together of the formerly estranged democracies is the overriding theme of the 21st century.
Defence cooperation, anti-terror strategy and energy security is the trinity that dominates this visit.
Within the narrow time frame ahead till the US President goes into an inactive phase, India has three primary objectives. Evidently in the first – securing US consent for India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and finalising the Indian entry in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) – PM Modi has already delivered.
By backing India at the missile and material high table the world does it no favour. In both fields India - should it want - can disrupt global equations. It has the leverage to export both nuclear components and long-range nuclear-capable missiles – just as China already has.
All but China recognise this. The route to both regimes now will be that much easier. Beijing – not New Delhi stands increasingly isolated. China looks more and more like a diplomatic ostrich with its head in the sand after this US support for Indian entry.
The agreement on cybersecurity will add muscle in the new dimension of warfare. Increasingly jamming and spying networks launching proxy attacks and disabling entire systems will feature as the warfare of the future. An India-US partnership signed during this visit will ease information sharing on terror; strengthen military security and even track illicit money flows. It will build the cooperative cyber architecture critical to the future security of both countries.
The defence arena
The US recently became India’s biggest supplier of defence equipment. From Apache helicopters to Poseidon spy aircraft from missiles like Harpoons to precision ammunition - India is now second only to Saudi Arabia as buyer of American weapons systems. According to SIPRI, a think tank, India accounts for nearly 12% of US arms exports.
The thrust of the Modi visit, however, is to change the profile from client to co - developer. India recently allowed 49 % foreign holding in defence it will have to do more. The PM is pushing for two specific projects.
A jet engine co-development for Indian made fighter jets and the electromagnetic aircraft launch System that allows aircraft to take off from carriers such as the one India is building at Kochi.
With a push coming from Obama to upgrade India to NATO ally status on foreign military sales, Modi's biggest achievement will be to move from a transactional to a strategic approach to military relations between New Delhi and Washington DC.
Ninad D Sheth is a senior Delhi-based journalist. The views expressed in this article are his own.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:46 PM