By Kanan Shah
President Obama’s visit to India earlier this month sparked much excitement in India. This meeting proved to be a turning point, setting US-India relations on a deeper, “perhaps even revolutionary,” (NY Times) path. Making history, Obama became first US president to attend India’s annual Republic Day Parade. Republic Day marks the day in which India’s post-independence constitution was enacted. The Indian public viewed President Obama’s acceptance of its invitation to attend the Parade as a sign of the country’s more prominent presence on the world stage.
Both countries had their reasons for meeting, with the need to expand economies looming over their shoulders. Both also see each other as crucial partners in offsetting China’s increasingly assertive role in Asia. Historically, India and China have been rivals, but India has thus far resisted forming a common front with US against China: this seems to be changing with Prime Minister Modi. PM Modi signed a joint statement with President Obama expressing disapproval of the Chinese government’s provoking conflicts with its neighbors over the South China Sea, and suggested reviving a security network that would consist of the US, India, Japan, and Australia. While on the topic of politics, the two leaders did not, however, discuss relations with Pakistan.
With regard to military policy, India is the biggest weapon importer in the world, and US is its main arms supplier. PM Modi and President Obama renewed their 10-year defense pact, and agreed to develop military hardware together.
On the environment front, President Obama’s attempts to solidify India’s actions towards climate change proved futile: India agreed to lower its hydrofluorocarbons, but did not set any specific goals for its reduction of greenhouse gases. India is currently the world’s third largest carbon-polluter and claims it needs to focus on alleviating poverty first.
President Obama also addressed human rights during his visit, urging India to protect the rights of its women and children, combat human trafficking and slavery, promote religious and racial tolerance, and empower the young. Without such steps, the solid policies implemented by PM Modi to transform India into an economic powerhouse will not mean much.
Kanan Shah ’18 is in Davenport College. Contact her at email@example.com.