A 3 day India visit by US President Barack Obama starts tomorrow. Is this visit to America’s “natural partner” tokenism or will there be real progress made?

Tokenism or Concrete Action?modi obama OBAMA VISITS INDIA

  1. “The Beast”, along with 4 US planes and countless security and other personnel arrived in India yesterday … this is the armoured car that the US President Barack Obama uses. This vehicle has 8” thick body armour plating and 5” bulletproof windows. Much is being made of the fact that Obama is the first US President to be invited for India’s Republic Day Parade and the first who has accepted that invitation.
  2. The international press is calling this the beginning of a New Era of Goodwill. The American press has been at pains to point out that as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day Parade, the President will do something that he almost never does in public: He’ll sit in one place, in a foreign country, for hours; a fact that appears to signal an increasingly close relationship between the US and India; which has been distinctly rocky in the past.
  3. President Obama is the first US President to visit India twice. After he arrives in India on 25th January, he will attend a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and then visit Rajghat, to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi. A restricted meeting between the two leaders will be followed by delegation level talks over lunch hosted by PM Narendra Modi. After the parade on 26th Obama and Modi will address business leaders. On 27th Obama will address a select gathering before going over to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra with wife Michele.
  4. It is significant that several top officials, multiple members of his cabinet, some US lawmakers, including Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the US House of Representatives, and a number of US business leaders are also to be a part of this trip by the US President. While issues such as trade, counter-terror, climate change will be discussed, differences with regard to the 2005 Civil Nuclear Agreement could prove a hindrance.
  5. There is the expectation that the two nations will sing a landmark agreement to build Smart Cities during the visit. The agreement relating to Allahabad, Ajmer and Vishakhapatnam will increase US participation in India’s infrastructure sector and improve bilateral cooperation. There is also the possibility of an agreement relating to multibillion-dollar fund to invest in Indian solar and wind power.
  6. The visit also underscores India and the US’s joint commitment to fighting terror; the President has asserted that “safe havens within Pakistan are not acceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice”.
  7. On the military front, talks on controversial military pacts have been revived ahead of the visit. The Americans have been pushing for the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA), discussions on these have resumed. (source). Progress on the on a renewed Defense Framework Agreement is likely.
  8. So much is expected to come from the President’s visit to the country he described as America’s “natural partner”; it remains to be seen whether substance of the two countries’ economic engagement can match up to the symbolism of the President’s visit.

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