Washington 'pleasantly surprised' at Narendra Modi's responsiveness

Washington: As India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi completes a month in office, the US appears "pleasantly surprised" at his government's response to American outreach, proving wrong doomsayers who expected a rough road ahead.Many an
washington pleasantly surprised at narendra modi...
IANS June 27, 2014 10:04 IST
Washington: As India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi completes a month in office, the US appears "pleasantly surprised" at his government's response to American outreach, proving wrong doomsayers who expected a rough road ahead.

Many an analyst had suggested that the 2005 US revocation of Modi's tourist/business visa for his alleged inaction during the 2002 Gujarat riots would cloud India-US ties, particularly since Washington had been a bit late in reaching out to him.

"I believe Washington has largely been pleasantly surprised at how responsive the new Indian Government has been to American outreach," Richard M. Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in US India Policy Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies told IANS.

"Less than a month after the election result, we are checking schedules for a head-of-state meeting in Washington, DC," he said taking note of a proposed summit meeting between Modi and President Barack Obama in September.

Alyssa Ayres, a former senior State Department official now working as a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, another leading think tank, agrees.

"From my perspective, Washington has responded to India's change of government by reaching out to Modi and decisively welcoming him to Washington," Ayres told IANS.

Obama's congratulatory phone call with an invitation to visit, Secretary of State John Kerry's call to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and US Trade Representative Michael Froman's call to Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman "all indicate a US side ready to forge relationship with new counterparts," Ayres said.

At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest Wednesday didn't "have a date for a visit from the new prime minister" but recalled "a few weeks ago the President had the opportunity to call him (Modi) and congratulate him on his election."

However, in Rossow' view "the 'comfort level' of cooperation (with the new Modi government) has yet to be determined."

"The trajectory of our relationship is not set in stone, and much will depend on personal rapport between cabinet and sub-cabinet officials," he said hoping that "our expectations for the relationship can be matched."

"The US Government felt quite let down about the possibilities of a deep strategic partnership following the failure to pass a clean Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Bill in 2010, and the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft decision a year later which removed the two American platforms from the bidding contest," Rossow said.

"At that point the relationship became more transactional," he noted.

"I suspect Mr. Modi will be quite a transformational figure; I hope our Government will be prepared to engage deeply once again if/when we have an opening," Rossow said. "I suspect we will not have to wait long."

Ayres on her part suggested that "For next steps, it will be good to see Washington develop policy proposals to respond to the ambitions and interests of the new Indian government."

"My take on this has been focused on the Modi government's greater openness to trade and investment matters and desire to attract business," she said.

In a new policy publication released Wednesday Ayres has recommended that Washington should champion Indian membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) as a means to get the economic relationship back on track.

"By supporting India's long-standing request as a new trade-oriented government takes charge in New Delhi, Washington can take an important step toward reorienting economic ties with India just as they become more important," she wrote.
 
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