18.06.2016 Author: Vladimir Terehov

Narendra Modi’s American Visit and its Results

4345345345A visit by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to the USA on June 6-8, 2016 demonstrated a process of bilateral convergence, which covered all aspects of interstate relations, including defence.

This process was initiated by Bill Clinton, who visited Deli in 2000 at the end of his second presidential term. This visit was called a “history-in-the-making” by both the countries. The date of this visit should be perceived as the beginning of the American foreign policy of the “pivot to Asia”, which was only effected after the event (11 years later) by Bill Clinton’s spouse in her famous article in the Foreign Policy magazine.

Despite a number of serious problems, the focus on an all-round development of relations with India was successfully implemented by both of the American Presidents that followed, who represented the two major parties of the country.

The keynote of the “pivot to Asia” of the American foreign policy, especially its convergence with India, was never in doubt even 15 years ago. It was attributable to the expert review of late 90s concerning all-round and rapid development of the People’s Republic of China as the major threat to the global positions of the USA.

This fact troubles India as well, and determines its movement toward the USA regardless of the government’s party affiliation. Two years of N. Modi premiership account for the most favourable period of the American-Indian relations development.

The mentioned motivation of the bilateral convergence has a fundamental character, which has not affected a long-term ban on entry of N. Modi to the USA lifted just 6 months prior to his election as the Prime Minister in May 2014. This ban related to suspicions about his involvement in the massacre of Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat, where he served as the Chief Minister at that time.

The entire fact that this June visit of N. Modi to the USA became the fourth during the two years of his premiership is meaningful, as well as his seventh meeting with the American President. Every time, visits of the Indian Prime Minister to the USA make a furore among American political elite.

He was accepted especially enthusiastically this time. A 45-minutes speech of N. Modi to the members of the both US Congress chambers was interrupted by rounds of applause about 40 times (The congressmen hardly had an opportunity to think about the meaning of what he was saying amid this continuous noise).

The former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, evaluates the results of the visit of N. Modi with feminine emotions (as “evidence of wonderful friendship”), while the Senator, John McCain, explains the real reasons of the colleagues’ enthusiasm coldly and rationally, “Undisputed fact of growing tension and challenges in the region requires significant increase of the coordination level and cooperation between India and the USA“.

The decision of the task specified by John McCain is covered by a comprehensive joint statement “The United States and India:Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century“. The statement covers all the aspects of the provision of bilateral “global partnership”, including defence.

From the perspective of review of the political game that develops in the region, parts of this document that prove the trend of the increasing role of India in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific Region, are worth considering in greater detail. Thus, paragraph 15 states the intention of the parties to realize “cooperation in the maritime safety and freedom of navigation.”

The last phrase is a long-standing mantra, using which the USA and Japan lay claims to China allegedly threatening the mentioned “freedom” in the South China Sea. In particular, it appeared in the resulting document of G-7 Summit held in late May in Japan.

The signature of the Indian Prime Minister, under this mantra in the joint document with the US President, strengthens the position of the global leader in its confrontation with China in the South China Sea beyond doubt.

As for the source of the “tension and challenges in the region” recently implicitly defined by McCain, i.e. China, acceleration of the American-Indian rapprochement demonstrated during the visit of N. In the USA, Modi was perceived with a certain vigilance.

In this respect, there was a notable title of an article in the Chinese Global Times which read “India’s vision cannot be realized by containing China“, and summarizes the preliminary results of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the USA.

Finally, from the perspective of the foregoing evaluation of the development of the regional game, the same results allow making two important conclusions.

First, in several political and geometric configurations that can be formed by the four leading regional players (USA, China, Japan, India), the role of the “USA-China-India” triangle is increasing. Second, there shall be the strengthening of the American-Indian side of this triangle.

However, the second conclusion should be checked for its immunity to the influence of the Pakistani factor. Its importance is determined by both the Pakistani drift towards China, and the USA attempts to retain its influence on Islamabad. Washington needs this influence primarily for removing the Afghan thorn from the flesh of its foreign policy, and without any significant losses if this is possible.

Under the possible solutions to the specified task, it is important to consider the sale of a squadron of American F-16 fighters to Pakistan, to which Deli negatively reacted. Such games by Washington are fraught with grave consequences in case of (quite possible) tension in the relations between India and Pakistan.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the Asia-Pacific Region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”