U.S., India talks display deepening ties

Freedom New Mexico

President Barack Obama last week hosted India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House as his administration’s first official state visit.

The event came complete with the usual press conference, two hours of diplomatic discussions and a star-studded dinner gala scheduled for the south lawn of the White House with a 400-person guest list that would make Hollywood jealous.

In welcome comments for Singh’s first official White House state visit, President Obama made flattering remarks and touted the United States-India relationship as one of the most important global partnerships of the 21st century.

Hosting Singh might be Obama’s best diplomatic decision to date. India may prove to be the most consequential U.S. ally for the foreseeable future — if the administration plays its cards right.

Obviously U.S. policies toward Pakistan were at the top of the list. India is irritated about Washington working so closely with Islamabad about Afghanistan because it is widely believed that an unstable Afghan government benefits Pakistan’s hostile military strategy toward India. India is particularly perturbed that the United States has been unwilling or unable to thwart Islamabad’s support of anti-India terrorist activities, like those in Mumbai last November.

Keeping India happy is critical to success in Afghanistan and greater security objectives in the region, from Iran to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India remains one of the single largest state donors to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan with about $1.2 billion in aid. And if the Obama administration is serious about nuclear proliferation, they need India’s cooperation.

Notwithstanding the security dilemmas, the United States is becoming more inextricably tied to India economically. Last year two-way trade rose to about $50 billion, making the U.S. India’s largest trade partner.

Trade relations are anticipated to grow in technology, automotive and various other sectors. U.S. companies have their eyes on Indian labor, one of the youngest workforces in the world. By 2020 the average age of the nearly 1.1 billion Indian people will be 29.

Another major sticking point is climate change and reduction of greenhouse omissions. The Obama administration wants India, one of the world’s largest polluters, to accept strict emission limits. India wants the U.S. and other developed nations to take the brunt of reductions, making it easier for India to continue its much-needed development.

The state visit timing is also significant because Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the Mumbai terrorist attacks that rocked the metropolitan capital of India with the bombing of the famous Taj Hotel, and subsequent massacre. The Indian people refer to this as their 26/11, akin to 9/11 in the United States, which they feel gives them a deep connection to the United States. With the visit coinciding with 26/11, the meeting has vast symbolic value in India.

Singh’s invitation to the White House is indicative of India’s growing global and economic clout. For the United States and, specifically, the Obama administration to achieve many of its goals, India’s support and participation is a must. Aside from attempted government mandates on emission limits, the talks between the U.S. and India have promise.