Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomacy is paying. He has declared not only to “work shoulder to shoulder” with the US but also brought Switzeraland, Mexico, Qatar and Afghanistan closer to his fight against terrorism and bid to be part of MTCR and NSG.
He has won significant business for the country – $ 10 billion nuclear projects funding by US Exim Bank, $ 40 million for US-India catalytic solar finance programmer for non-grid solar power regular Indo-US troops cooperation.
The US is also to gain as India moves on to buy $ 13 billion arms from the US.
It is not that India has walked into the embrace of the US. Modi has been tactical. India did not go with the “begging bowl”, as it was often projected in the past particularly by the west. Modi projected an immodest country and projected its potential. His address to the US Congress was a demonstration of two equals talking for mutual benefit. He convinced the US congressmen of unstoppable Indian rise.
Modi talked of India’s strengths. He positioned it as a reliable partner with complementary strengths. “As India embarks on an era of development, it needs to learn from America’s tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation”, Modi said. It is a significant statement and beyond the regime and friendship US President Barack H Obama. Modi apparently aware of the political changes in the US was also addressing the future president. His stress on the terror hub in the neighbourhood is significant. It is the key component in the US presidential race.
In his bid to be a partner with the US, Modi was pragmatic enough not to ruffle the feathers of the Himalayan neighbor, China. He quietly dropped off avoidable South China Sea, from the joint statement. India needs China for more than one reason. Besides, winning friends does not mean creating adversaries.
Modi is pragmatic. He has taken India into Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)), a 34-member exclusive club, which controls transfer of missile, space and related technology. More importantly the club does not include China. India is the only country to be a part of it despite not signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
The US support for pushing India into Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) is an important step to counter Chinese reservation. India’s application to NSG comes up at the NSG plenary later in June itself.
Practically, India does neither need membership of MTCR or NSG. The decades of sanction since 1974 has helped India develop technologies on its own. Post-1998, India’s exhibition of capability also led to dismantling of the sanction regime. But India needs the membership to assert its sovereignty and the principle that India cannot be ignored by the world powers to deny what is due to it.
The memberships would open up a new era of collaboration, where none can put a spanner on “technical” grounds. India has grown on its own but it also needs the latest technologies and mechanics to move ahead. These are gateways to unhindered growth. It also ensures that India is the natural leader of the downtrodden and can stop the rogues from disrupting the world.
That is where Indo-US troop engagement beyond the shores of the two countries is significant. Doors are now open for Indian armed forces to extend their operational reach in the critical Asia-Pacific region and beyond with logistical help from the US. It also opens up the path to acquire Predator surveillance and armed drones – a requirement to strengthen the country’s security.
India’s quest to acquire armed high altitude long endurance (HALE) drones, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and key space technologies will become easier after entry to MTCR. India could not acquire deadly Hellfire missiles used by the US army in Af-Pak regime as it was not in MTCR.
The bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) envisages Indian and US militaries providing logistics support, refueling and berthing facilities to each other’s warships and aircraft on an equal-value exchange basis seamlessly.
The LEMOA will give regular access to US forces to Indian military bases, though they would not be stationed permanently. Indian forces would have access to Djibouti (horn of Africa), Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), Guam (Western Pacific) and Subic Bay (The Philippines).
India stunned the world with brave Yemen rescue mission, when 23 countries, including the US, France and Germany sought its assistance for rescue of their nationals in March-April 2015.
The LEMOA is a mere recognition of Indian capability. It helps Indian forces reach to almost the entire globe. It brings an opportunity to the countrymen. It creates job not only abroad but also within the country. It is a vision that would better Indian job and economic scenario in the next few years. The multitude of Indian youth has to be adventurous to take the country ahead.
There are also maritime security dialogues – key component for coastal security and sharing of commercial “white shipping” information between India and the US. India is trying to finalise such pacts with 25 countries from the African coast to the western Pacific to beef up maritime security to counter conventional and unconventional threats.
In the process, India has agreed to be on the same page on bringing Paris climate agreement into force. The joint statement indicates that the two countries will work towards ensuring that 55 nations ratify the Paris pact. Once in force, the agreements terms cannot be altered for four years. It implies that the next US president would have to abide by it.
The agreements on energy security, clean energy, gas hydrates and climate change can open up a new development era.
After two years, four US visits and seven summits, Modi, many may aver, has taken the country into the US ambit. But there is a less noticeable aspect of how Modi is using the US for various other relationships. It is more futuristic. The US cannot do without India in its latest geo-strategy. Obama can neither push the Paris pact without India’s help nor can free Asia of terrorism nor even carry out its maneuvers in South China Sea.
It is India’s moment. It has to ensure how China is on board for sailing into NSG.