Beyond the Bonhomie: When the Oldest met the Largest

Nagesh K Ojha is a researcher in School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi.

Nagesh K Ojha
Nagesh K Ojha

India is a country of immense contradictions, yet it is significant on the global chessboard especially for American’s long-term fortunes. So, President Obama has to ‘revive and rebuild an important relationship with a key Asian partner that has fallen on hard times in recent years.’ These are well thought out perceptions among U.S. intelligentsia. However, realities are always tough compared to perceptions.

How diplomacy goes on even in bonhomie, the joint press conference of President Obama’s visit to India is its best example. The very first reply of the President was in accordance with the question on Ukrainian Crisis regarding Russian approach to deal the situation. It was simply surprising and jejune for many, but diplomacy goes on as it is. For many, it had nothing to do with the current visit and very awkward; nevertheless, it was started by India and in the same way got befitted reply in a wistfully crafted visit of the US President. However, the maturity was shown and it was sent in oblivion. A strong message was sent and received as well.

Prime_Minister_Modi_and_President_Obama_shake_hands_during_a_joint_press_interactionBut most importantly, this was a watershed moment. If, on the one hand, Americans reminded the Indian stand, wherein Indian previous National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon had declared regarding the Ukrainian crisis that ‘there are legitimate Russian and other interests involved and we hope they are discussed and resolved’, which was noticed by the Kremlin seriously and the President Vladimir Putin for which he thanked New Delhi for its “restrained and objective” stance on the issue. The Americans extended their potential support in many ways as well. For the Indian point of view, now it is clear that Russian leaning of the Indian National Congress (Center to Left) has gone on backseat in the Indian politics, while BJP (Center to Right) is the new driver of Indian politics and economy.

As far as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is concerned, China is a difficult partner for Russia as well as India. Recently, Russia’s Gazprom and  People’s Republic of China’s China National Petroleum Corporation concluded ‘Power of Siberia’, a thirty years gas pipeline deal on 21st May 2014, which would cost RUB 770billion ($20.6 billion) and get delivery of 38 billion cubic metres per year between Russia and China. It does not present that much rosy picture which was initially portrayed. Its advance payments are linked with the Chinese export to the Russian markets. Similarly, recent Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s visit to India ended with cold responses in terms of long term results. Even during this visit, border was not peaceful and Chinese troops have given the message of disputed territory or all is not well with these two populous nations. While, Nicholas Burns highlighted that ‘string of pearls’ is another concern for Indian Navy wherein Chinese have an aggressive “naval strategy by establishing access rights to ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to hem in the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.”

While, India-Russia relations are slowly coming out of the Cold War era equations. In terms of Indian trade and commerce, other than defense procurements, Russia is nowhere comparable to the United States, which is the third largest business partner of growing South Asian economy and significant marine power as well as holding the fourth largest Army following the South Korea, China, and the United States. It seems that Mr. Obama has chosen to accept the invitation and join the Republic Day parade as an opportunity to assess India-Russia cord in terms of Indian backing of Russia in the United Nations. Though, the left-tilting political sphere of Indian state had started to make shift toward the US, but had to go a long way, meanwhile right-tilting new political sphere of India has shown additional focus on building close relations with the US as well.

Therefore, this completely elapsed point from general discussion is bamboozling, but could be a mature move of the current government and media as well. Only the future will tell that in which direction these nations would move in reality. Certainly, it is not a simple task to write a new narrative vis-à-vis two great nations, where one is the oldest and other holds the largest democracy on this planet. However, one thing is for sure that within three-quarters, this new government has accomplished sufficient hit and trial in various foreign policy issues and spheres. Up to now, full credit goes to venturous foreign policy approach of Mr. Modi, which was, by all means, not on expected lines. He has adopted a ‘New Deal-type crusade’ to overhaul the economy and to raise the GDP growth rate from 4.5%- about 7% in years to come. However, everyone is not hopeful in the same length because of Indian red-tapism, corruption, and above all this government does not have a majority in the Upper House of the Parliament. Nevertheless, regarding the U.S., ‘in the century ahead, U.S. strategic interests will align more closely with India’s than they will with those of any other continental power in Asia. In spite of all these realities, if the aggressive approach goes on, the next target of Mr. Modi would be Europe and Middle East, where more nuances are required.

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