The two day visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States of America on June 7-8; and the joint statement of the two counterparts, giving definite pointers to a tilt in India’s foreign policy towards the US, marked a milestone in terms of deviation of the country’s foreign policy from the objective of non-alignment.
The foreign policy has to undergo changes taking into the global geopolitics. Even in the UPA regime under Dr Manmohan Singh, there were definite signs of a shift towards the US as part of Singh’s craze for high technology and big investments from the US, but still there was a dividing line.
The NDA PM has crossed that line and openly declared that “today our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history”.India is now an expanding economy and its growth rate in 2015-2016 is the highest among the emerging countries including China. Developed countries, including China, are anxious for getting an increased share of India’s burgeoning market.
India has the advantage of getting concessions from the big powers in its own national interests by making good use of its vast untapped market and the technological expertise. India’s relations with the US could have proceeded on an equal footing if the Indian PM would have had a composite strategy in building relations with the US taking Indian interests in mind.
But at the end, this US visit has turned into a one-way street with Modi offering Indian defence market to the US companies for his Make in India programme and agreeing to a questionable logistics agreement which poses serious issues of national security.
The bilateral summit with the American president, Barack Obama, has opened up new possibilities for collaboration in areas of defence, nuclear power, clean energy and cyber security including maritime security. The ground for expansion of ties was ready earlier itself but Obama gave some personal push to the strategic relationship with India before the end of his second term in office. The Indian
officials see substantial gains for India by analysing the summit discussions and the joint statement during the visit.
From an Indian standpoint, in the defence sector, there has been a strategic shift in both India and the US governments exchanging final drafts of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), another name of Logistics Support Agreement (LSA). It will be formally signed after the Indian cabinet gives official approval. As per this approved LEMOA, India will have access to US military bases globally and this will be of help to India in expanding Indian military environment in different parts of the world.
As Indian officials see it, India has been given higher status in US perception as a Major Defence Partner (MDP) and this should help India in getting over some of the rigid US rules in terms of technology transfer and India will be in a position to get latest defence technology from the US as per the approved category of armed control list. However defence experts opine that the outcome will only prove whether really India will be benefitted with latest defence technology supplies or all these remain at the level of the US intentions only.
However, Indian officials are excited that the Modi’s Make in India will get a boost as a result of the US commitment to treat India as MDF. This will help India in getting dual-use technologies for use in Make in India projects. The US will continue to facilitate export of goods and technologies for Indian projects and joint ventures. New Defence Technology and Trade Initiative working groups will include items covering naval systems, air systems and other weapons systems.
That way, the US has been given a major role in the development of the Indian defence industry covering all the key areas. The US has always been very rigid in terms of supplying high technology to India. Despite high expectations by Modi’s officials, there is no reason why the US will be liberal in supplying high technology to India this time.
As regards Nuclear Power Cooperation, the steps that the two governments have taken in the last two years through the US-India Contact Group, by addressing the nuclear liability issue, through India’s ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, have laid a strong foundation for a long-term partnership between US and Indian companies for building nuclear power plants in India.
Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, the leaders welcomed the start of preparatory work on site in India for six 1000 MW reactors to be built by Westinghouse and noted the intention of India and the US Export-Import Bank to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project. Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the US-India civil nuclear agreement and demonstrating a shared commitment to meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
Both sides welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017.
Regarding Clean Energy, India has agreed to a major commitment on a proposed amendment to the ozone-saving Montreal Protocol, and the US has responded with a pledge of at least $30 million to support deployment of clean and renewable energy in India.
A substantial part of the Joint Statement, signed by the two countries, is dedicated to strengthening cooperation in the areas of clean energy and renewables, providing further evidence that climate change and related issues have emerged as one of the strongest cementing factors in India-US relationship over the last few years.
The Joint Statement is one more example of a series of give-and-take arrangements the two countries have had on climate issues. India agreed to work towards adopting an important amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol that banned the use of ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
The amendment will bring hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), commonly used as refrigerants and coolants, within the ambit of the Montreal Protocol. HFCs came to be used as substitutes to CFCs. HFCs are not ozone-depleting, but are very potent greenhouse gases.