Washington, Sep 23: Underlining that Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit presents an opportunity for progress on key issues in Indo-US ties, a top American think tank has said the two countries must ensure that it is the beginning of “renewed attention” towards each other than a one-off attempt. “Once the pomp and ceremony of the visit have passed, the two countries must ensure that it does not represent a one-off attempt but rather the beginning of renewed attention to a relationship that requires constant tending,” said Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security.
Fontaine, in a new policy brief titled “Seizing the Modi Moment: Reenergising US-India Ties on the Eve of the Prime Minister’s Visit”, has offered a series of concrete recommendations including completing Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations and jump-starting trade liberalisation talks. He recommends complete implementation of the civil nuclear agreement, renew and expand the Defense Framework Agreement and deepen regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, including through dialogue on post-2016 Afghanistan and by reviving the US-India-Japan-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
“Taking steps in these areas would represent movement on only the highest priority items; there remains a rich agenda that touches on energy cooperation, democracy promotion, education and other spheres,” Fontaine said. “In moving forward, it will be critical for leaders in both countries to keep their bureaucracies focused on the long-term prize: a significantly deepened strategic partnership. In the absence of such top-down direction, the two countries will once again find their agendas stalled by myriad tactical-level impediments,” he said.
“To this end, President Obama and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi should each designate a high-level relationship ‘owner’ on each side who will help combat the perception that Washington has lost interest in India and that New Delhi is too inwardly focused to think ambitiously about its relationship with America,” Fontaine wrote. “The US Vice President or a cabinet-level official could fulfill this function on the American side; the Prime Minister’s National Security Advisor might play such a role for India,” he suggested.
The visit of Modi to the United States represents an important opportunity to rejuvenate bilateral ties after a period of malaise and inattention.
By making sure that it is the beginning of renewed attention to bilateral ties, Fontaine said, “they can deepen the transformation of relations between two great powers, anchor an Asian balance of power, spur growth in both countries and smoothen the rise of the world’s largest democracy.”
“In a world awash with intractable challenges, this is a investment worth making,” he said.