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'US must signal readiness to do business with Modi'

June 04, 2014 13:54 IST

'US must signal readiness to do business with Modi'

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Lalit K Jha in Washington

Observing that the US was late in engaging with Narendra Modi, an eminent American scholar has asked the White House to signal that it is ready to do business with the new Indian Prime Minister and reinvigorate bilateral ties.

"(The US) President (Barack) Obama should signal his willingness to meet with Modi in Washington on the heels of the September 2014 United Nations General Assembly.

“This would help set the foundation for improved ties and mend fences over the revoked visa issue," Lisa Curtis of Heritage Foundation said.

A known India expert, Curtis said there is an opportunity to move past recent irritants in the US-Indian relationship and reinvigorate the ties between the two countries.

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Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'US must signal readiness to do business with Modi'

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"For this to happen, the Obama Administration must signal that it is ready to do business with newly elected Prime Minister Modi.

“If the US demonstrates its willingness to establish close ties with the new Indian government, it is likely that the Bharatiya Janata Party will reciprocate, and the two sides can refocus on achieving the vision of a durable and strategic partnership, which is in the national interest of both countries," Curtis said.

According to Curtis, the US should seek to work with the new BJP government to enhance India's role in demonstrating America's commitment to the Asia-Pacific.

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Image: US President Barack Obama.
Photographs: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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'US must signal readiness to do business with Modi'

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"Given the BJP's apparent interest in adopting a more assertive hedging strategy vis-a-vis China, the US will likely find more opportunities to engage with Indian officials on the US strategy in the Asia-Pacific," she said.

"A BJP government will not be constrained or influenced by leftist-leaning politicians who have a knee-jerk aversion to strategic cooperation with the US, as was the Congress Party-led government.

“BJP leaders will continue to resist any policy construed as 'containment' of China, however," Curtis said.

"Modi's strong equation with Japanese Prime Minister Abe also could open opportunities for greater trilateral cooperation among the US, India and Japan.

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Image: ccording to Curtis, the US should seek to work with the new BJP government to enhance India's role in demonstrating America's commitment to the Asia-Pacific.
Photographs: Reuters

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'US must signal readiness to do business with Modi'

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“The sixth trilateral US-India-Japan meeting, scheduled to take place in New Delhi in early June, presents an early opportunity for the new Indian government to demonstrate it prioritises the dialogue," she added.

Calling to reinvigorate the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Indian National Security Advisor, Curtis urged the Obama Administration to make a fresh push to clear hurdles for US companies to invest in India's civil nuclear sector.

"The US should encourage India's economic and political involvement in Afghanistan, which helps bolster the Afghan government’s efforts to fight terrorism," she said.

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Image: US President Barack Obama meets members of the audience after delivering remarks at the US-India business council and entrepreneurship summit in Mumbai.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'US must signal readiness to do business with Modi'

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Conventional thinking holds that the US can mitigate regional tensions by adopting a neutral or ‘balanced’ position towards the sources of Indo-Pakistani conflict and the tools each side employs to try to prevail in the conflict.

"But this approach has not served US interests when it comes to fighting terrorism.

In fact, prioritising a policy of balance over principles in dealing with Indo–Pakistani tensions has contributed to the growth of international terrorist threats emanating from South Asia," she argued.

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Image: US President Barack Obama.
Photographs: Reuters

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Curtis said the US has squandered valuable opportunities in the past -- including in the aftermath of 9/11 and the 2001-2002 Indo-Pakistani military crisis, and after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks -- to encourage change in the Pakistani military’s fundamental calculations on the use of terrorism to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Pakistan successfully argued that it was too weak to meet US counter-terrorism demands.

This led US officials to soften their tone and accept continued ambiguous Pakistani relationships with known terrorist groups, Curtis said.

"The US will never fully get a handle on the international terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan if it allows Islamabad to continually link the activities of these groups to its dispute with India," she said, adding that the US should no longer sacrifice its anti-terrorism principles in the region for the sake of pursuing an ‘even-handed’ South Asia policy.

 


Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters

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