Its Time Had Come, Given the Realities of the Emerging Global Order
It is not something simple, but comprises a myriad of national and global events coming together, some historical, others contractual. This summit could well signal a new order in this region.
Deliberations and Outcome Decoded and Simplified
There are always some good takeaways and some not so good ones. There are some that depend upon which part of the political spectrum or school of thought you come from, others depend upon how you view the dynamically evolving global equations and where you want to position India in that scenario.
To many, the outcome may be a most natural evolution, for a bonding for which time had come. Two things stand out. One is India and the other is the PM. It is the man and the moment.
It would be prudent to say the honour was India’s, it is an honour for 1.4 billion Indians. It is an acknowledgement of the stature of India! It is India’s heft, given, at this point in time, when the economy will grow regardless of governments in a country of young people aspiring to make a mark in virtually every sphere of life, from sports to startups, from heavy industry to software. India is on the cusps of over whelming growth, in need of heavy investments, technology, green energy, not to forget its status as a major global buyer of military hardware.
But, can we overlook that it is Modi’s personal charisma that brought the numerous standing ovations. You had only to witness the confidence, the elan with which he spoke. His consummate artistry over delivery, his frequent use of humour, you can say, or subtle reflections. Like it is time for AI, which he said was America and India. Or, when he said that the samosa caucus was the flavour of the season.
Two times elected PM, looking forward to an unprecedented third term. A person who heads the first single party government with 335 seats, after a lapse of three decades, bidding good bye to coalition governments at the centre. It was the confidence the Americans displayed in the man as well, their understanding of his vision and his future role in carrying India fast forward. So, it is an honour for all Indians, not to forget the formidable Indian diaspora present in the US, both in government and in industry, but just as much to the man himself. It was truly a moment of crowning glory for the PM!
How is the Moment Important?
How about the moment? It is a natural glide into an evolved relationship, given the new geo-political twists on the global scene, which includes the events on our borders in the last few years, most unfortunate years, that have suddenly shifted our sights to defending not one but two and three borders. With all the bonhomie between President Xi and PM Modi, China decided to get aggressive in both Galwan as well as Doklam thereby confirming that it’s aggressive strategies for the region included a big threat to India as well. So, with multi fronts with China and one with Pakistan, we have a formidable challenge ahead. We need advanced weapons, we need assurances of support when needed, we need to have more obvious heft in the region. Staying afloat does not give that; peace comes also from others understanding where you stand and who your allies are!
It is also a time when the US has been challenged in this region, and elsewhere, too, as China looks to enlarge its footprint globally. Especially in the South China Seas, but our more pressing concern has been the Indian Ocean region, where the US has an impressive presence; a closer understanding with the US provides that greater assurance for peace in the waters that concern us.
Investments and Technology
There has been a growing understanding among global markets that given India’s present positioning, it is probably the only and the safest, apart from being the biggest, market for investing in virtually all spheres. Education, healthcare, roads and airports – we need a rapid building up, for which we need both investment and technology. With much of the required infrastructure in place in the US, in Europe, UK, West Asia, where does an investor go next? As a single biggest market India provides the opportunity. If it is India’s time, with that window of opportunity, it is time for others to step in. US has the money, the expertise and now the willingness. It is worthwhile to note that our agreements signed were in all directions. Not just defence but in technology per se, trade and commerce. PM’s wooing of the big industry is also a step in this direction because America’s investments come equally from the private sector.
What Happens to our Ropewalk?
We have been doing this tight ropewalk, with an idea of multipolarity, which could be saying we will put our eggs in many baskets. Does that work? How will the new situation change this stance? Have we given assurances to the US, to the contrary. So, should it appear we will continue to buy Russian oil, not denounce the Russians in the Ukraine war, but we will say that war is not a solution in these times. We will continue to hold border talks with the Chinese and hope, sooner than later, they will budge and become more flexible. There is no overlooking that fact that we have a long border with China; America has none. Surely, we do not wish to get entangled into hostility; given the cost of any military engagement, we can scarce have resources for any war. So, do we continue to buy peace, notwithstanding the engagement with the US.
One imagines, we continue to be valuable ‘partners’ for both China and Russia. Why would India want to upset either, and continue to strongly pursue multipolarity in its global outlook.
Why now, this embrace with the US?
A good question to ask. A simple explanation can be its time had not come! We in actual fact have more in common between our two countries. As was said by both parties, shared values and ideals, no matter if we are some percentage points not perfect. Perhaps a good point to make mention, but not enough not to go ahead. All these years, for one reason or the other, both were in a kind of self-denial. One big reason could be their existing friends were foes of one of the two, there was lack of trust to get closer and lose the comfort of existing support structures. In the last few years, both sides have been seeing a closing in of goals and objectives in our region.
India’s Democracy Status: Concerns in the West
Yes, there were protests. Trucks carried messages to remind that there were issues back home in India. President Obama made a rare intervention saying “if you do not protect the rights of ethnic and minority Indians, there is a strong possibility that India at some point starts pulling apart”. A timely intervention, which was brushed aside by the US government, though an Indian scribe has suggested this could be at the behest of the government, to say things they did not want to say themselves. The PMs retort was forthright and emphatic. He was addressing a press conference, for a change, his first in nine years. So, President Biden got PM Modi to do a first of sorts. He asserted no minority has been discriminated in any of the government schemes to help and assist communities, all these have been passed to all without any favour. But he did not go into other accusations made against the government in recent years. That mattered little to the Americans.
Modi’s Agenda for the 2024 General Elections?
Is this going to be a major poll plank for the BJP? India’s growing standing in the global arena? With so much effort going into the ongoing G20 deliberations, with the summit planned for early September, this might well be! Would this work? That is a different question for which we do not have any answer. Only time will tell. In May 2024, or earlier, as many pundits opine the dates may well be announced immediately after the inauguration of the Ayodhya complex, the temple, the airport, and a rejuvenated town! Whatever the coming months will unfold, one thing is certain: exciting times are ahead in the coming year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Navin Berry, Editor, Destination India, over five decades has edited publications like CityScan, India Debates and Travel Trends Today. He is the founder of SATTE, India’s first inbound tourism mart, biggest in Asia.