Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | PM Modi in US | A major leap forward for India-US ties?

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | PM Modi in US | A major leap forward for India-US ties?

In this episode of Worldview, we discuss Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington and do concerns over human rights weigh down the visit

This week we are looking at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, which saw US President Joseph Biden roll out the red carpet for him. PM Modi’s visit included a private dinner at the White House, a ceremonial welcome, a state banquet, an address to the US Congress joint session and lunch at the State Department.

PM Modi is the third international leader, after French President Macron and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to be invited as a State guest to the Biden White House. He is also the third Indian leader to be invited as a State visitor to Washington

Since 2009, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was invited by President Barack Obama

And in 1963, when President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was invited by President John F Kennedy

Sixty years later, PM Modi was given a ceremonial welcome at the White House by President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden., and a standing ovation at the US Congress

“Decades from now — decades from now, people will look back and say the Quad bent the arc of history toward “global good,” as the Prime Minister describes it. Together, India and the United States are working closely on everything from ending poverty and expanding access to healthcare to addressing climate change to tackling food and energy insecurity stoked by Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine,” U.S President Joe Biden said

We were strangers in defence cooperation at the turn of the century. Now, the United States has become one of our most important defence partners. Today India and the US are working together, in space and in the seas, in science and in semi-conductors, in start-ups and sustainability, in tech and in trade, in farming and finance, in art and artificial intelligence, in energy and education, in healthcare and humanitarian efforts, PM Narendra Modi said.

1. High-Tech partnership

1. The big deal announced during this visit was the MoU for a co-production deal between GE and HAL to manufacture GE-F414 jet engines in India for Tejas Light Combat Aircraft

2. Semiconductor supply chains: Micron Technology will invest $800 million toward a new $2.75 billion semiconductor assembly and test facility in Gujarat- the Indian Semiconductor mission will fund the rest of the project

3. Under the newly launched Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), a number of innovation partnerships, also on India and the United States have established a Joint Indo-U.S. Quantum Coordination Mechanism to facilitate joint research looking at Quantum, Advanced Computing, and Artificial Intelligence

4. India to join the 11-nation minerals security partnership (msp) meant to reduce dependence on China for critical minerals

2. Defence cooperation

1. India will buy 16 Drones- armed MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAVs.

2. The US Navy has concluded a Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA) with Larsen and Toubro Shipyard in Kattupalli (Chennai) and is finalizing agreements with Mazagon Dock Limited (Mumbai) and Goa Shipyard (Goa).

3. Placing Indian liasion officers at 3 US commands

4. Launch of India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X)— between private defence industries in US and India

3. Space cooperation:

1. India signed the Artemis Accords, joining 26 other countries working on exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

2. NASA will provide advanced training to Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) astronauts with the goal of launching a joint effort to the International Space Station in 2024.

3. NASA and the ISRO are developing a strategic framework for human spaceflight cooperation by the end of 2023

4. Trade and Consular issues

1. Resolution of six of seven outstanding WTO disputes between the two countries through mutually agreed solutions, market access

2. India to set up consulate in Seattle, 2 other US cities. US to set up new consulates in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru

3. Relaxation in H1B visa norms for in country renewal and more availability of visas

So what were the broad geopolitical takeaways of the Modi visit:

1. Reaffirmation of India-US strategic ties, also within Quad and the Indo-Pacific, although no specific messaging on China.

2. High technology partnerships will drive the next phase of the relationship, just as the nuclear deal, or the defence agreements, or the search for an FTA once did. In particular, the Jet engine deal if it goes through could pave the way for more technology transfer that has thus far eluded the relationship

3. Leadership level summits and meetings continue to ensure India-US ties grow year on year as they have over the past two decades. Biden will visit India for the G20 summit in September, and there’s speculation PM Modi will be invited to California for the APEC summit in November, where leaders of 21 countries including US and China will meet.

Reading the fine print- what was left out?

1. The big ticket item on this visit- for the GE F414 jet engines to be co produced in India still has a long regulatory road ahead- a manufacturing license agreement has now been submitted for Congressional Notification. US Congress will need to clear the deal on two counts of Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Questions are still open on just how much technology will actually be transferred- and whether India will accept conditions attached to that….some of the reasons previous attempts on jet engine tech transfer, as the two countries attempted from 2010-2019 under DTTI, failed.

2. Indian regulations have similiarly held up the Indo US nuclear deal between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) for the construction of six nuclear reactors in Kovvada, Andhra Pradesh. 8 years after Modi-Obama announced the nuclear deal is done, and worked a way around the CLNDA, there’s still no techno-commercial offer. ‘

3. The Biden administration has made it clear it has no interest in continuing the Trump-era FTA talks, and the Modi government has made it clear it still expects the Biden administration to restore India’s GSP status for exports. But no movement during this visit

4. The big ticket deal from 2019 on an Indian investment in a US LNG plant- specifically the $2.5 bn planned by Petronet in Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG project- has not been revived, nor was any announcement made on GAIL India’s plans to invest in US LNG plants.

5. India and US agreed to disagree, but differences over the Russian war in Ukraine remained- while Biden referred to what he called Russia’s brutal war on two occasions, PM Modi didn’t, nor did the Joint statement reflect it.

6. Human Rights-this remains as prickly an issue as it was in 2014, when PM Modi visited US for the first time after his visa was revoked in 2005. Ahead of this visit as many as 75 members of the US Congress wrote to President Biden demanding that he raise concerns over human rights and democracy in India publicly, which he did not.

And former President Obama said this in an interview that released the same day as the State visit:

“I think it is true that if the President meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India, that’s something worth mentioning. Because, and by the way, if I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know Well, part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there is a strong possibility, and at some point, starts pulling apart. And we’ve seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts”

When asked at a rare press event with – where he answered a few questions from the media, here’s what PM Modi said

“We have proven that democracy can deliver, and there is no discrimination in India on the issues of cast, creed, religion” 


Quite aside from the moment at hand, the underlying logic for India-US relations, especially between its people has always been strong- and is the reason relations remained close despite cold war tensions. PM Modi’s state visit to Washington is one more step in ties that have grown year on year over 2 decades, and are poised to take the next leap on technology transfer. When it comes to questions over Indian democracy, that are internal to India, PM Modi made a rare exception in taking questions in the US, but it is the answers he gives to Indians in india on democratic freedoms that will actually count. 

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