After arriving in India over the weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama concluded a series of bilateral agreements with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Obama, who was invited to India as the chief guest for India’s annual Republic Day celebrations, broached the once-uncomfortable topic of climate change with Modi, making surprising progress on the issue. The two leaders followed up on themes addressed during Modi’s September 2014 trip to the United States and addressed some issues that had been on the U.S.-India bilateral back-burner for several years now. What follows below is a quick distillation of nine highlights out of the released joint statement, joint strategic vision document, and the visit overall. I’ll likely follow this up shortly with more detailed analysis on at least a couple of these points. I put together a similar summary of the previous U.S.-India bilateral joint statement after Modi’s U.S. trip, which focused primarily on defense and security issues that may help contextualize some of the below.
Category Archives: Geo – Politics
India has long seemed unable or unwilling to become a major player on the world stage. But the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is looking to change all that. In order to compensate for a small and weak foreign service, he is tapping into India’s considerable soft power: its emigrants, intellectuals, and yogis.
Modi began his premiership last year with a dramatic spurt of diplomatic activity. He has ratcheted up India’s engagement with its neighbors. His first overseas trip was to Bhutan; he visited Nepal twice in four months; and he worked to resolve territorial disputes with Bangladesh. He has courted China, Japan, and the United States through a series of high-profile bilateral visits. And he has energetically represented India at multilateral forums, most notably the BRICS meetings, the G-20, and the United Nations General Assembly.
But there are limits to what conventional diplomacy can achieve, especially given its weak institutional underpinnings in India. The Indian Foreign Service (IFS), the bureaucracy that staffs India’s top diplomatic institutions, is tiny for a country with global ambitions: a mere 900 people. Indeed, representing India’s 1.2 billion people is a foreign service that is roughly the same size as that of New Zealand (population 4.4 million) or Singapore (5.3 million). By comparison, the United States’ is around 15,000 and China’s around 5,000.
ADMIRE Barack Obama’s endurance on January 26th, when he becomes the first American president to be guest of honour at India’s annual Republic Day parade in Delhi. For two long hours he will inhale the capital’s smog as he and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, review a procession of military hardware, trick-motorcycle riders and troupes of dancers. A chilly winter morning on Rajpath, New Delhi’s main ceremonial boulevard, can be an eternity.
Mr Obama is coming to India on a three-day trip to improve an already strong bond with the country’s barrel-chested leader. He will become the only sitting American president to visit India twice, and he arrives barely four months after Mr Modi went to Washington. The two men also got together on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Myanmar in November.