Hindu editorial dated June 24
The Modi visit further strengthened the ties between India and the U.S.
Rolling out the red carpet for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his state visit to Washington, U.S. President Joseph Biden underlined his belief that the India-U.S. partnership will be one of the “defining relationships of the 21st century”, one that he has had a strong belief in as U.S. Vice-President in the Obama administration. The phrase mirrored the one used by U.S. President Barack Obama at the state banquet for former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009 — one of the “defining partnerships of the 21st century” — denoting the consistent strengthening of ties over the first two decades of the century. The visit by Mr. Modi, his first state visit to the U.S., has not disappointed votaries of the relationship. The two sides announced new deals involving high-end defence cooperation, semiconductor industry investments, and a partnership in quantum and advanced computing and AI. The deal for co-production of jet engines in India — White House called it “trailblazing” — will involve an unprecedented level of technology transfer. India’s decision to join the 11-nation mineral security partnership for critical minerals, where China has a global monopoly, and cooperation on critical and emerging technologies, particularly in clean energy, will strengthen future cooperation here. Finally, India’s move to sign on to the 27-nation Artemis Accords for cooperation in space exploration, and the NASA-ISRO partnerships for human spaceflight will also catapult India’s ambitions in the sphere.
It is significant that areas of discord, such as the differences in policies towards Russia’s war in Ukraine, and confrontation with China, where New Delhi has been more diffident, were sidestepped. Perhaps more difficult to sidestep were increasingly loud questions over the state of democracy and human rights in India, which 75 U.S. members of the Congress raised in a letter to Mr. Biden. While some uber-liberal Democrat lawmakers took the extreme step of boycotting Mr. Modi’s address to the joint session of Congress, it would be harder to ignore the pointed words from Mr. Obama in an interview the same day, on India’s minority rights. Eventually, Mr. Modi’s response, in a rare press availability with Mr. Biden, dismissed some misgivings over his administration — he denied alleged discrimination against minorities and a crackdown on dissent. Rights issues are not a bilateral concern, and with his warm welcome, Mr. Biden made it clear he did not share the concern. If Mr. Modi wishes to address public concerns, however, he may find it more effective to make the case in a press conference on his return, emphasising his belief that “if there are no human values and there is no humanity, there are no human rights, then it cannot be called a democracy”.
White House rolls out the red carpet
Mod’s visit to the U.S. infuses new blood to bilateral ties.
From the days he worked as Vice-President in the Obama administration, President Joe Biden had pinned his hopes on Indo-U.S. ties that he felt would shape the course of the world community in the coming decades. Prime Minister Modi’s state visit to Washington provided a unique opportunity for President Biden to make the visit a watershed moment in the development of Indo-U.S. relations.
President Obama, too, had held similar views on the potential of strong Indo-U.S. ties that he had outlined during the state dinner hosted by him for Dr. Manmohan Singh. There are many scholars and analysts in both sides, who earnestly want the bilateral relations to flourish between the most powerful and the largest democracies of the world. The resounding success of Prime Minister Modi’s visit will certainly make this community feel upbeat.
The visit culminated in a few big-ticket deals in sectors like defence, semiconductors manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence, and quantum and advanced computing. Most conspicuous among these is the offer of the U.S. to transfer advanced jet engine manufacturing technology to India. As follow-up, General Electric of the U.S. will collaborate with HAL to make the engines that would eventually be used in the Tejas MK-2 jet fighters, now in the making in India.
China enjoys monopoly in mining and processing of Rare Earth elements that are critical to development of batteries for electric vehicles and semiconductors. The U.S. had formed a coalition of 11 nations who could pool their resources and technologies to maximize the production of these elements. Now, India has agreed to be on-boarded to this elite group, whose ultimate goal is to break the Chinese monopoly in this sector. Such a multi-lateral cooperation will give a big push to production of clean energy, a goal crucial for minimizing dependence on fossil fuels. Besides these, India became a signatory to the 27-nation Artemis Accord that aims to enhance international cooperation in space exploration. This will, surely bolster NASA-ISRO cooperation in space ventures.
Both sides prudently chose not to raise contentious issues such India’s reluctance to openly criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. In the same vein, India’s reluctance to adopt a more aggressive stance vis-à-vis China was not discussed. Even the vociferous voices in the U.S. against Modi’s anti-Muslim policies, and his back-door control of the country’s media were ignored by the U.S. side, so as not to rub Modi on the wrong side.
It would be a folly to assume that the whole of the U.S. chose to remain silent on Modi’s disregard of democratic principles. As many as 75 U.S. Congressmen had urged President Biden to remind Modi about how Americans frown on Modi’s disregard of human rights, and his ill-treatment of minorities. Their plea, conveyed through a widely-publicized letter, was expediently ignored by the U.S. President. Not that such voices of disapproval of Modi’s scant regard for democratic values didn’t come to the fore. In an interview to CNN, Pesident Obama made an oblique reference to Modi as a leader with a dictatorial agenda, whose anti-minority policies could dismember India some day in the future. Two senators boycotted the speech Modi gave to a joint session of the Congress.
No doubt, Modi rebuffed the charges against him in a joint press conference with President Biden, but his rebuttal was an attempt to deflect the charges, rather than give clear answers to explain his stand. Modi spoke evasively using generalized expressions to re-affirm his commitment to democratic values and to tolerance of dissent. Few bought his explanation that was couched in nice words, with no substance. Mr. Biden, as the gracious host, didn’t utter a word on this issue in order not to offend his host.
[GOOD WORDS AND PHRASES ARE UNDERLINED.]