Indo-US Bilateral Relations: 'Manmohan Damaged, Modi Repaired'


When that happens, there will be substantive change. But Modi needs to show the US business leaders that he is a man they can do business with. How well he can transmit words into actual solutions

As India and the US look ahead to US President Barack Obama’s visit to India to attend the Republic Day parade, a panel discussion on ‘Modi-Obama Summit: A paradigm shift in India-US Relation’ was organised at the University of Chicago Center in New Delhi, which was partnered by the Indo-American Friendship Association.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor was categorical that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent US visit didn’t result in a paradigm shift in the India-US relation.

Labelling Modi’s US visit as high on style and less on substance, Tharoor remarked: “Washington is not susceptible to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brand of alliterative rhetoric like the three Ds (Democracy, Demography and Demand) and five Ts (Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology) and was looking for results, not hype. The Washington visit and Modi’s first bilateral with Obama, was a sobering reminder that the hard work of building strategic partnership requires lot more than skilful words, which he (Modi) is very good at".

However, the Congress leader was not entirely dismissive of Modi’s visit to the US. “There were achievements, for Modi personally. The visit restored normalcy after years of being on the visa ban list and it was a necessary corrective of a negative image.”

"The US has heard big soundbites before. What they are looking for is action not words, results not hype. And that’s what we are looking forward to India too, and we haven’t seen enough of that. When that happens, there will be substantive change. But Modi needs to show the US business leaders that he is a man they can do business with. How well he can transmit words into actual solutions. I thought the visit to Washington was actually a bit of a damp squib, especially after the appearance in New York and the speech in the UN. It is difficult to find anything tangible," Tharoor said.

While dismissing Modi’s US visit (which, according to him, has no single success or concrete deliverables in terms of defence production assistance or transfer of green tech), the Congress leader was all praise for the UPA 2 led by Dr. Manmohan Singh. “The big paradigm shift was the truly extraordinary George Bush-Manmohan Singh nuclear deal of 2005,” he opined.

Former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh termed Modi’s visit as trend-setting, which helped repair the damage to bilateral relations of the past four years.

"The visit brought back the fizz to bilateral relations, and the mood to US business about India. Around $40 billion worth of transactions were inked following the Modi visit,” said Mansingh.

According to economist Rajiv Kumar of the Centre for Policy Research, India-US relations will improve if the business relations improve. He added that India needs to make the nuclear liability law more accommodative.

Michael Pelletier, US Deputy Chief of Mission, said that bilateral ties are witnessing a very public engagement to take relations forward. “What is changing is the confidence... the range of visits and talks indicate we are moving forward,” the US official said.

The event was moderated by former diplomat Surendra Kumar, co-founder of the Indo-American Friendship Association, and also addressed by Denise M. Jorgens, director of International House at the University of Chicago.

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