On January 26th President Obama created more than just history by visiting India on the occasion of her 66th Republic Day. Months before Obama’s visit, officials on both sides spent sleepless nights working to make this trip glitch free, especially in the wake of terror threats. And now that the momentous trip has come to an end, there have been ripples all over. From puns on Prime Minister Modi’s striped suit to the twitterati commenting on Obama chewing gum during the parade, political commentators and the public have thoroughly milked every issue. But despite extensive analysis of state issues like the nuclear deal, climate agreement and military assignments, I find it important to list some important implications of this trip that might have been hitherto overlooked.
China and Pakistan miffed? There is no denying that the Modi-Obama camaraderie has made China insecure, with the media in China rebuffing the display of the ‘bromance’ as “superficial rapprochement.” Pakistan, on the other hand, has gone crying to the Chinese after being snubbed and possibly even ignored by Uncle Sam. The aphorism the enemy of my enemy is my friend comes to mind. One can only wonder what effects this will have on Indo-Pak and Indo-Sino ties. This trip has definitely made the waters murkier.
Tacit Intentions? Several activists in India, especially in the area of public health, felt that the US was trying to pressure India to dilute its patent laws. Many are also apprehensive that pharmaceutical companies and the US government are putting pressure on the Indian government to enact legal changes that would make medicines unaffordable It remains to be seen whether the Obama administration did indeed try to nudge India into this – lookout for public health policy announcements as a sure indicator.
Hotline Conversations? As a further sign of things warming up between the two leaders, Modi and Obama announced that they would set up a new hotline between their offices and their National Security Advisors. One hopes that this is not just to chat about trivial tidbits but also to discuss more pressing strategic issues like India’s maritime ambitions and international security. The creation of this hotline shows that the diplomats on both sides are open to a greater engagement with each other. This is welcoming especially to correct the strained relationship that resulted from the U.S. refusing Modi a visa several years ago.
Of course there is other more ‘juicy’ trivia about this recently concluded visit, but the points mentioned above deserve special mention for the implication they will have on US/India relations. Let’s hope that this trip was more than just a public display of affection!