Prime Minister Narendra Modi will try to revive the coalition of pro-Indian lobbies that helped convince the George W Bush administration to sign the nuclear deal with India in 2008.
Then, a constellation of heavyweights in the US – from the leaders of the Pentagon, the Congress, the powerful Jewish lobby, Corporate American and prominent non-resident Indians – had come together to push India’s case with the US administration.
Since then, that coalition has fallen apart for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that India’s till then red hot economy has lost steam. Then, an adversarial tax regime and the government getting into activist mode on the economy have scared away foreign investors. The Congress party’s excessive sensitivity towards perceived Muslim animosity towards Israel meant the government stopped engaging the Jewish lobby in the US. The US Congress, too, turned its back on India after the UPA government enacted a nuclear liability law that was so draconian that even Indian companies have fought shy of it.
From the US side, the transactional, quid pro quo style of the Barrack Obama administration meant that the big picture strategic element that brought India and the US close – in George W Bush’s blinkered, but for India beneficial, worldview, we were among the “good guys” and, therefore, deserving of US support –is missing completely.
Ideology and general disinterest have combined to exile the hen that laid golden eggs. The Modi government, being more pragmatic and pro-business and completely bereft of any left-of-centre ideological leanings, realizes that it needs US support – to repair the Indian economy, to wean the US away from its very pro-Pakistan view of developments in Afghanistan and on balancing out the Asian power equation vis a vis China.
Therefore, the outreach to precisely those constituencies that lobbied hard for the nuclear deal. Modi will meet 17 top CEOs of US companies in an effort to convince them that India is once again open for business.
Then, efforts are on to arrange a meeting between Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This will be the first ever meeting between the Indian and Israeli heads of governments on the sidelines of any multilateral event and will tell the world that New Delhi is no longer shy of publicly embracing Tel Aviv as a friend and ally.
Modi will reach out to Congressional leaders and the NRI community as well.
With the right incentives – and S&P’s upgrade of India’s outlook two days ago is just the right signal – the coalition of these special interest groups and powerful lobbies can be revived.
If he can do that, Modi will have planted the seeds of warm, long-term ties with the US – without the hiccups and the rollercoaster trajectory of the last decade. Tagged: Narendra Modi
, United States