Three likely outcomes of Obama’s visit to India

Al Jazeera speaks to defence analyst Ajai Shukla on some of the policy matters likely to be addressed by both nations.

Barack Obama, Narendra Modi
While the trip is largely symbolic, both Inda and the US have a number of policy matters to discuss and resolve [AP]

Barack Obama arrived on Sunday for his second state visit to New Delhi as president of the US, receiving a resounding welcome from the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Much has been made of India’s relationship with the US, with Obama describing it as one of the “defining partnerships of the 21st century”.

While the trip is largely symbolic, both India and the US have a number of policy matters to discuss and resolve.

Al Jazeera speaks to Ajai Shukla, a defence analyst based in New Delhi, on the nature of Obama’s trip to India and on some of the key issues likely to be discussed.

Significance of the trip 

“The trip basically means that the post-Cold War situation has been re-ordered and crystallised, and given the emerging rivalry between America and China, the US has decided that India is a crucial swing state that needs to be cultivated as a close security and economic partner, as a representative of US interests in South Asia.

And therefore, it is doing everything it can do to engage with India and make up for many years of neglect.”

On India’s approach to the US

“There is a parallel reality on the Indian side though that does not correspond to the American view of things. India wants to engage multilaterally with all the powers in the region and globally.

It likes to leverage each of its relationships – one against the other. So to that extent, America is not just the sole Indian partner.

India is engaging very strongly largely due to economic interests. Fact is, America is one of many partners that India is engaging with.”

Three possible outcomes

“There are a lot of negotiations going on to try and finalise the terms of an Indian nuclear liability law, as it would apply to American companies wanting to do nuclear commerce in India.

The US led the way in sort of bringing India back into the nuclear mainstream, obtaining an exception from the nuclear suppliers group which allows to India to do nuclear commerce with other countries.

To that extent, there is a sort of unspoken quid pro quo from the Indian side that would give business to American nuclear companies to set up up nuclear power generation facilities in India.

But that has been held back for several years now because of an Indian nuclear liability law that places an onus of responsibility in the event of any accident on the American companies that supplied the nuclear reactors and facility.

The US companies want to work around that, they want to limit their liability to a certain cap and there is a negotiation going on for a deal on that. This may be one of the big outcomes of this visit.

The other big outcome is an agreement on climate change. It is being expected in some quarters that India would accept emission gaps going into the future. We have to see if that will be one of the big outcomes. 

The third outcome is likely to be an extension of the tenure of the defence framework which is likely to extended between 2015-2025.” 

Listen to the full interview below:


Source: Al Jazeera