America Follows India's Money


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Jun 17, 2009
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America Follows India's Money

In 2002, Robert Blackwill, then the US ambassador to India, lamented loudly that US-India trade was as "flat as a chapatti." After the US-friendly Manmohan Singh government's exit and Narendra Modi taking over, America is desperately seeking dough with a series of India visits by senior officials. So far, 13 of them have visited New Delhi. In just eight days, three cabinet-level officials from the US administration came, the last being US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, seeking early decisions on defence deals ranging from the next-generation Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs)—for which President Barack Obama has personally lobbied with Narendra Modi— to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Tina Kaidanow State Department Coordinator for Counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism, cybercrimeIndia imported $1.9 billion of arms from America last year, making it the biggest foreign buyer of US weapons. Hagel brought with him a high-powered team—Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South Asia and South-east Asia, Amy Searight, Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Frank Kendall and Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar. Preceding Hagel was a double-barrel charm offensive on July 31 by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. While Kerry had to be the main driver to bring about synergies in regional and global political outlook, Pritzker had to deal with pricklier issues like the WTO Bali Deal U-turn by India which was emphasising food security, IPR and trade barriers.

The high-powered delegation held the Strategic Dialogue with their Indian counterparts, led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Kerry and Pritzker also met Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The Secretary of State also had a separate interaction with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in the context of Pakistan and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while Pritzker met with Minister of State for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman. The India-US trade reached an all-time high of over $63.7 billion in 2013. The Americans' final meeting was with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Interestingly, many members of the delegations were Indian-origin Americans.

The cavalry had started with the Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal adding India to her multi-nation travel itinerary at short notice. Before reaching Delhi, she was en route to Tajikistan to hold talks with the establishment regarding Afghanistan. This was followed by trip to Beijing to discussion linkages along the New Silk Road and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor. Biswal is the pointsperson for India-US ties in the State Department. The Indian-origin diplomat was in Delhi from June 6-9, when she held preliminary discussions with her counterpart, MEA Joint Secretary Vikram Doraiswami. Both diplomats played the lead on the grunt-work on removing the bitter debris of the Devyani Khobragade incident. It was the first visit by a US official immediately after the May elections. By now Biswal would have visited India twice in the first three months of the NDA government—she had accompanied her boss John Kerry for the strategic dialogue last week. After her, it was the turn of Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, a second-ranking officer in Foggy Bottom who not only was the scene-setter for the Strategic Dialogue, but also acted as a messenger from Obama to Modi. Burns passed on the formal invitation to the prime minister to visit the US in late September—a country from which Modi was officially barred till just a few months ago. Now, he automatically qualifies for an A1 visa as the Indian Prime Minister. The Obama administration had moved with alacrity as soon as it was clear that Modi would be India's new PM, with an immediate phone call from the President inviting him to visit the White House and the removal of its ambassador to Delhi who could not strike the right note with Modi.
Chuck Hagel Secretary of Defence Defence sales and co-production, strategic military-to-military cooperation
Sources say the latest trip to India was not one of Kerry's most successful foreign visits—the Secretary of State was reportedly upset at being given one of the last appointments with Modi at the last minute. Similarly, the headlines after the strategic dialogue was about Swaraj saying that NSA snooping was "unacceptable" among friends. It was not the feel-good banners that US was hoping to see, which it had taken for granted during Manmohan Singh's time. Accompanying Kerry were carefully chosen senior officials, the presence of each indicating the priorities for collaboration between the two countries.\

America Follows India's Money - The New Indian Express

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