Obama visiting India triggers new hope for broadening ties

obam modi-webNEW YORK/CHICAGO: The announcement that US President Barack Obama has agreed to visit India timing it with the celebrations of Indian Republic Day has triggered huge enthusiasm and hope among Indian Americans across the country with many convinced that this would give a new and positive twist to Indo-US relations.

Coming this close on the heels of India PM Narendra Modi’s triumphant visit to their country followed by his equally successful talks and visits to Japan, Australia and other parts of the world, it underlines a renewed desire on the part of the US administration to cultivate India as a centerpiece of its relationship with world powers.

The US is locked up in its fight against ISIS and global terrorism which has also started touching its shore and the administration seems all the more keen to cultivate support from all quarters. India has been a victim of cross border terrorism too and it felt that an active Indian support to fight this global menace would lend it much needed edge.

The other important area which would get a new look is the boosting of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. The US administration has started recognizing India as an important market now that developed markets of Europe and Japan have started faltering. The Chinese economy has also slowed in its growth while there is a thaw in trade with Russia, another super power.

The United States is keen to expand trade with India, a US official said last Monday, after the two countries settled a bitter row over food subsidies and President Barack Obama announced he would visit in January.

The US Trade Representative Michael Froman recently was in New Delhi at the first meeting in four years of a key trade panel on which representatives from the world’s largest economy and the emerging market giant sit.” We believe in the promise of India,” Froman told a business audience, “Let’s deliver on that promise.”

Two-way trade between the US and India currently stands at $100 billion and the countries aim to boost the figure to $500 billion but have set no deadline.

The nations reached a breakthrough earlier this month in a food subsidies spat that threatened to derail a landmark World Trade Organization pact to ease global trade barriers.

By easing the cost of doing business, the Trade Facilitation Agreement – set to be approved by the WTO’s General Council soon – will be “win-win” for developed and developing nations, Froman said.

“Some suggest the Indian and US breakthrough (unlocking the global deal) may have saved the multinational trading system,” Froman said. In any event, the compromise “could not have been possible without the personal engagement” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama, he added.

The two men are said to have struck up a good rapport during Modi’s hugely successful US visit last month.” They gave our partnership a mantra… ‘Further together we go’,” Froman said.
Analysts say the US-India relationship is now moving ahead on all fronts from economic, political to military. The breakthrough over the WTO deal cleared the path for Obama’s acceptance of PM Modi’s invitation to be “the Chief Guest” at India’s Republic Day parade – a display of military might and ethnic diversity. Obama will be the first sitting US President to visit India twice.
Some of the issues that need to be sorted out, say analysts, concern the Indian workers paying social security in the US, market access to agricultural products and the thorny topic of patents. It is made amply clear that a headway in areas such as Indian intellectual property rights involving drug patents and entertainment copyright law was crucial to strengthening commercial ties.
US-based pharmaceutical companies often complain about India’s tough patent laws that do not allow tweaking of inventions to win new patent protection and instead demand “genuine innovation”.
Last month, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres accused the US of ratcheting up pressure on India to relax patent conditions that have made the country the “world’s pharmacy” with its lifesaving generic drugs.
But Siddharth Birla, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), indicated India was not about to relax its patent laws. The patent protection reflected India’s “development priorities” aimed at “providing accessibility and affordability of medicines”, he observed.
Chicago bureau adds:
The consensus among those surveyed clearly indicates that President Barack Obama visiting India close on the heels of triumphant PM Modi visit to US is a great diplomatic coup on the part of PM Modi and will be a forerunner of many a positive and good things to follow.

DR.BHARAT BARAI, a front ranking oncologist in Indiana and the chief coordinator of NY based Indian American Community Foundation, said that the President Barack Obama agreeing to visit India close on the heels of a recent US visit by Indian PM Narendra Modi augurs well for Indo US ties and it is surely going to have multiple positive impact on bilateral relations.

Dr Barai feels that the focus will be more on forging closer links on fighting terrorism as also strengthening militarily ties and cooperation since that falls within the purview of the US Government. India right now does not need economic aid and so far investment is concerned it is in private hands – private corporations. The visit will create lot of political goodwill which should have a favorable impact on investment climate. This in its turn can generate a larger flow of ingestible funds to India from the private sector.

Yet another topic that could be touched upon may relate to the immigration and visa problems. It is likely that the US would relent and agree for a bigger quota for H 1 or student visa. This will be beneficial to India in the long run as the US educated skilled hands and the work force will give a boost to India economically and prestige-wide globally.

MAFAT PATEL, managing forty plus chain of grocery stores across the USA is often described as “uncrowned King of Indian Town on Devon” in Chicago. He said that this is a big historical event as no sitting US President has visited India twice during his reign. Barack Obama with his second visit in January 2015 will create history. “I believe that both the parties – India and USA – will talk on all issues that affect them mutually as well as globally. Terrorism is a global issue while economic cooperation would be easily handled bilaterally. Politics of course is there, and efforts will be made to narrow down differences,” Mafat Patel observed

IFTKHAR SHAREEF, the FIA Trustee Board Chair, said the coming Republic Day event in Delhi will be good opportunity for our PM Narendra Modi to discuss on cross-border terrorism with President Obama who will be the Chief Guest at the event on January26.

There is need to understand the urgency to address cross-border terrorism which is hampering economic growth of India. Enough pressure should be mounted on Pakistan not to meddle in the Kashmir issue or overall general Indian-Muslim issues in India. Muslims in India are well educated about the issues they face, and are able to handle them in a democratic way as they live in a country where democracy prevails and laws are equal for all Indians. PM Narendra Modi should also address the threat with Barack Obama during his visit and talk about daily threats to our nation from neighboring countries including Pakistan, China and others.

Iftekhar Shareef also felt that the economy of India will have a big positive change in next few years as India is enjoying the largest population of young talented work force who are dedicated to making our country proud. “We will see in next few years more companies from around the world would like to invest in India. Our PM is making the world know to come and invest in India,” he added.

According to Iftekhar Shareef, the political situation in India will be more stable than before, as after two decades there is a single party majority which means BJP could work on their own agenda. Still it is a good sign that the ruling BJP Government is taking every party in confidence and is in consultation with them. The present government of NDA must focus on law and order and this would be a key factor for the economic development of the country.

SOHAN JOSHI, president of National Federation of Indian Associations, said that the best possible outcome of the proposed visit of US President Barack Obama would be that it could strike a good personal rapport between these two great world leaders. PM Narendra Modi was maligned by interested groups and was denied visa to USA for about ten years. It was during President Obama’s regime that the administration relented and not only got him visa but also set up one to one meet with the President.

There was an honest effort to reassess the personality of PM Modi and President Obama readily agreed to be in India during Republic Day celebrations when a formal invitation was extended.

This speaks a lot about conscious efforts on both sides to bury the past and move forward in a spirit of give and take.
“I think there would be immense possibilities of cooperation between the two countries after the visit. Let us hope for the best as it would augur good for the world as well,” Joshi observed.

AJIT GANDHI, a front ranking financial advisor and acute India scene observer said that in his opinion, fighting global terrorism and forging economic cooperation will be the areas getting more attention soon and also a big boost in the course of time. Between these two areas, the economics will steal the limelight, of course. Although terrorism is an important issue everywhere, money/commerce/economics do take priorities. It is no secret that NaMo himself is very interested in boosting economic development. So, it makes sense that these two areas will outshine politics.

NAREN PATEL, CEO MedStar Laboratories and a former head of the Association of India Origin, mentioned that to him the most important thing would be to get the American leaders interested in India all around.

“Our focus should be what the American side could do to help India progress all around. Come to India in a big way and chalk out the program for common good. Raking up good connection would be beneficial in the long run. As against no connection or poor connection with the highest in the administration party of America, closer link will always be good for the country,” he observed While discussing economics or political topics , it would be better to stay away from controversies, he added.

HARENDRA MANGROLA, a former head of Indo- American Democratic Organization, said that President Obama’s visit to India will get the two countries closer as never before in all areas of activities. “I personally feel that it would be the economy that will benefit most. India is keen fighting terrorism and PM Modi will give his piece of mind to President Obama about cross border terrorism. Cooperation in Defense may be there but I am not sure. Politically both the countries will come together and President will have a first hand chance to assess PM Modi. Hopefully his past impression of this great India leader will get erased,” Mangrola said.

SUNIL SHAH, founder President FIA-Suburb, said that Modi wave swept entire India and even USA when he was here last September. We are set to witness the same euphoria when US President Obama goes to India to grace the Republic Day Event as the Chief Guest. He would be the first US President to do so. A true feather in the cap for the Republic Day event in India.

This would begin a new era of strong ties which is steadily expanding. The visit would bolster the relationship between two greatest democracies in the world not only economically and politically but also achieving the common goal of fighting terrorism.
The two countries are developing a strategic partnership prompted by shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive territorial claims in the Asia Pacific region and its growing power and influence in Asia.
PM Modi’s move is truly remarkable and laudable in extending this invitation. The four years of UPA led government saw a setback in ties with the US. There were deliberate efforts to scuttle efforts to move forward on issues which were clearly in India’s interest.
We have a Prime Minister and government that is not trapped in ideological moorings of the past. The Modi government is reshaping Indian foreign policy in the same fundamental ways. We see that India now under his able leadership is confidently engaging with all major powers like China, Japan, UK, Australia to secure the best possible outcome for itself.
We see the past is giving way to new refreshing openness which is embedded in the pragmatic instincts and approach of PM Modi.

It’s remarkable that in just eight months in office PM Modi would have hosted the US President, the Russian President and the Chinese Premier. Would not India be the Super Power in the world if we get eight years of his leadership?
RISHIKANT SINGH, Manager Air India NY, said that the focus will be economy, as India needs all round development, not merely a few States high on progress chart. Economy is what should be of top interest to both the countries.

Containing or fighting terrorism can only be done with unified global efforts. It is important but would not be the focus right now, he observed

Vyas Sudhir, Surendra Ullal & Ramesh Soparawala