Modi's US visit: From persona non grata to guest of honour at White House

Narendra Modi, persona non grata earlier, as Gujarat CM, would now be a diplomatic guest of honour at the White House. Can both, Prime Minister Modi and President Obama find amicable solutions for impending issues between India and the US?


Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be completing his 100 days in office by the first week of October this year. In this short space of time, he has taken the opportunity to meet a large number of world leaders, during his visit to attend the BRICS meeting in Brazil, and followed it up with visits to both China and Japan. In fact, only a week or ten days earlier, he would have had some serious discussions with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, not only in Beijing, but in India as well. Modi has had discussions with all his neighbours. Only, UK and Europe are to be covered in the next few months.


Both US and India are successfully operating democracies, and have a lot in common. But the relations have not been as one would have hoped. In fact, a few years ago, Narendra Damodardas Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, was not even a welcome guest to the US and he was considered "ineligible" for a visit visa! This persona non grata then would now be a diplomatic guest of honour.


PM Modi is scheduled to visit the country and is expected to meet US President Barack Obama on 30th September in the White House. No doubt, they both have a long agenda to discuss and settle. It will be mutually beneficial in the long run.


India is Asia's third largest economy. India is a nuclear nation and a non-signatory to the NPT – Non Proliferation Treaty, which as many as 189 nations have signed. This has enabled a few lucky ones to be in the NSG - Nuclear Suppliers Group, which was set up in 1975 to ensure that civilian nuclear trade is not diverted for military aims. But when the US sealed a nuclear supply deal with India in 2008, China and some others in the group found the action questionable, as Delhi was outside the NSG. There were long and contentious negotiations before India could get a waiver. China has shown its reservations due to its proximity and close ties with its ally, Pakistan. This is one issue that Modi is likely to have discussed with President Xi in Brazil as well as in Beijing.


In the meantime, India has recently ratified an agreement that allows the IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency - to oversea its nuclear programme. It can now be assumed that during the talks with President Obama, this matter will be again raised and ways and means found to make India a member of the NSG. This is vital for national development.


India and US have had several defence deals in the past. India's import of weapons from US since 2007-8 has amounted to over $10 billion. In the last three years, for instance, India has imported Rs83,458 crore worth of weapons, out of which Rs32,615 crore was from the US, while Russia supplied Rs25,364 crore, France Rs12,407 crore and Israel Rs3,389 crore. In a recent visit of Chuck Hagel, US Defence Secretary, decisions have been made to revive the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) and also work towards the extension of 10-year Indian-Defence frame work.


Hagel met Modi, who stressed the importance of "technology transfer" and said India was keen to make further progress in bilateral ties. This included defence manufacturing in India. Both agreed to go in for co-development and co-production of weapon systems. No doubt, these would be raised again in the discussions between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi. During the meeting that Hagel had with his counterpart Arun Jaitley, it was brought to his notice that FDI cap has been increased to 49% from 26%.


However, there is the fear that US is not a reliable long term and high end defence supplier, given its spur of the moment reactions for imposing sanctions and stringent export control laws. India would be glad to work with the US, if such points can be settled amicably. Prime Minister Modi is likely to raise the issue of bringing up ground realities in asking for US support in restructuring global institutions like the UN Security Council and the International Monetary Fund (UNSC and IMF). In the case of UN Security Council, there is no longer any justification for India to be kept out; in fact, now that European Union is a reality, it would be unfair for both UK and France to have the membership of this august body. European Union should have one and it is up to them to nominate any member of the Union to be the permanent member in the Security Council.


When UNSC is restructured, it may have a total of five or seven members and, in such an event, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa could be other suitable candidates. No doubt, during his meeting with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Modi would have raised these issues. Doubtless, he will take up the matter with President Obama so that this matter can be resolved permanently.


One other important issue that Prime Minister Modi is bound to raise relates to the US Immigration Bill. During his recent visit, John Kerry indicated that changes can be made. This will facilitate Indians.


President Obama may also seek India’s assistance in resolving some issues in the Middle East, relating to Iran, for instance, or even support in that area. It is in the interest of both the countries that efforts are made to support each other in ensuring peace and democratic traditions all over the globe.


Finally, Prime Minister Modi should take this opportunity to extend his personal invitation to President Obama to be the Chief Guest of Honour on the Republic Day celebrations on 26th January 2015. So far, Indian governments of the past have not bothered to do so, which is a shame. The US is the oldest democracy in operation and it should be a great privilege to have the President of that country to be the chief guest on such an important occasion. Modi should wipe out this black mark in our past governments' behaviour and correct the same.


In summing up, Prime Minister Modi needs to secure President Obama's support in:


(a) obtaining the permanent membership of the UN Security Council

(b) becoming a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group

(c) bringing changes in Immigration Bill in the US

(d) establishing transfer of technology and defence manufacturing in India

(e) encouraging educational institutions to set up their branches in India


No doubt, this will be a historic trip that will bring great advantage and progress to both nations.

Dr Anantha K Ramdas
8 years ago
Thank your Mr Shadi Katyal for your comments. From the beginning, our approach has been a "socialistic pattern of society",in the words of Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Which is why we leaned towards the Russians.

We must also not forget that Late President Richard Nixon wanted to tip the Indo-Pak war and lean towards Pakistan! All these things happen and politicians are considered as "strange bed-fellows". We do have to change, and we are in the process of doing so as the trade figures show.

Billions of dollars are spent by Indians studying in the US and as Late PM Indira Gandhi said: "India is for Indians" and we may take "sides" once in a while but our policy has been neutral, as far as possible.

As for leaning towards Russia in the past, and even now, our own INS Vikramaditya which was being refitted at incresing cost runs have run to billions of dollars, and, Russians are as unreliable as anyoneelse,when it comes to "transfer of technology".

As they say, we have to "grin and bear it", for the time being until we are able to stand on our own feet.

This is only possible when Indians themselves feel proud of being Indians and act in an exemplary manner - not stash untaxed wealth in Swiss Banks, generate black money in the country, hoard goods to hold the rest to ransom, and fan corruption at all levels.

I personally feel that the new government may try to improve the country in many ways - given the time and support.
shadi katyal
Replied to Dr Anantha K Ramdas comment 8 years ago
Nehru took that step as he was not familiar with market economy and Russian system looked good to a Bolshevik which he was. So we have now PSU as biggest losers and no innovations of productions.
I suggest you should read all the anti west speeches by Nehru and his minions and tell us why such rhetoric was needed.
We were partners with Russia and it was cold war but what we Indians forget that USA did not come to help Pakistan as implied and USA had many pacts with Pakistan. Even the arms shipment was topped to both nations as per Congress rules. Can you and many who bel;ieve in this show any such military help?? Yes a ship was posted at Singapore to facilitate some of the Pakistan Army officers who moved safely through Burma leaving 898,000 POW. While repeating such misinformation we forget the goodwill of USA all these decades. I bet many of us have never heard or read about President Roosevelt's efforts for freedom of India and running battle between him and Churchill.
What a pity that for learning we have to pay fees and many have been on all kinds of scholarships and even the American students who pay the taxes donot complain as you are. You can complain about these intellectuals not returning as they have better opportunities in USA. Why have we failed to bring education stand rds up. Kindly donot quote me of IIMand IIT as those are service industries jobs known commonly as dot connecters but no INNOVATION AND INVENTIONS.
Russia is well aware that India is a good market and how to get as much as possible.When USSR failed and Ruble dropped to few cents, Russia saw to it that India paid through her nose on old exchange price instead of prevailing new exchange rate.She knew tht India will take a free burnout old carriers and when refurbishing it kept changing cost and time to deliver. Is this how one runs the defence. Modi asked like the UPA for technological help will never get and Russia should had been one to offer but why when one can fleece India.
It is our misfortune that while China was able to get all the technologies we kept begging for it and are still on same road.

Mahesh S Bhatt
8 years ago
Educational reforms shall take time till our politicians get away from it.

shadi katyal
8 years ago
The article is more or less one sided. Why continue to bring Modi Visa as he never applied and thus a moot question. We continue to muck up and thus try to create problems. No nation is going to give up her sovereignty and Laws for another nation. We have been anti-USA despite her help in times of crisis and we still maintain Cold War mentality.
Russia had been our biggest supplier of $14 Billions but has she given us any technologies. Why not??
India increasing FID to 49 % is as poor and bad as 26%.When other nations can get all the business without any
FDI, why give one's R& D. Did we not learn this lesson as from day one we denuded cooperation and technologies and no nation ever offered or gave. Assembling MIG 21 in India or any other equipment is not transfer of technology.
As for UN seat there are many problems as India has lost the charm she had few years back in the world and Pakistan and some other nations will be the spanner in the spokes.
Let us take steps with not mindset as I find in this article but with open mind and leaving all the old skeletons back. Let us be pragmatic and move ahead
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