VIEWPOINT

It's true, India has emerged

Posted on November 11, 2010 | Author: Amit Mitra | View 400

President Barack Obama's visit has broken the glass ceiling by broadening India's strategic relevance to cover other regions and areas of the world.

artical Picture

If one single statement of President Obama captures his trip to India signifying a strategic shift in Indo-US relations, it is this: “India is not simply emerging: India has already emerged.” 

The question is: what prompted Obama to make this pithy statement? 
    
In recent years, India has slowly but steadily moved on to the high table of global engagement. 

Our role in G20 in mediating on conflicting positions between major nations and taking an independent position on the emerging global architecture have been acknowledged. 

Another manifestation of India’s rising power has been the increase in India’s quota share in IMF. 

As for the WTO, India has steadily become a deciding voice. 

On climate change, Copenhagen had a defining moment when India became the fulcrum in negotiating between major pressure groups to save the conference from falling apart. 

Now there is talk of India becoming a part of an expanding G8, while India’s leadership is being sought in APEC, OECD and International Energy Agency. 

There is even talk of India’s inclusion in the ‘Five Eyes’, a five-country grouping which currently share sensitive counter-terrorism information with ‘interoperability (secure exchange)’. 

Mr Obama’s statement reflects a culmination of all of these multidimensional global developments vis-à-vis India. 
    
Also significant is President Obama’s avoidance of the controversial ‘O’ word — outsourcing, during his visit. 

In fact, poignantly he said: “I did not make outsourcing a bogey man during my trip.” 

Here, we must not forget that in his scintillating biography Audacity of Hope, written much before he became President (in 2006), he spoke of an indelible impression on his mind when he visited Galesburg. 

A Maytag Plant of 1,600 employees had just been closed because it migrated to Mexico. 

On his drive back to Chicago from Galesburg, he tried to imagine the plight of a worker Tim. 

He ruminated over “Tim’s desperation: no job, an ailing son, his savings running out”. 

Mr Obama added: “Those were the stories you missed on a private jet at 40,000 feet.” 

Given these heart-wrenching feelings on outsourcing, it must have taken Herculean effort on the part of Obama to move from ‘stopping outsourcing’ to the mantra of ‘fresh job creation in the US’ as the theme of his India visit. 
    
He is aware, as elucidated in the Ficci-Maryland University study, that Indian corporates acquired as many as 372 American firms and created 127 new companies (greenfield) during 2004-09. Of these, 85 companies alone supported 40,000 jobs for the US workforce. 

It is little known that the aerospace giant, Boeing, alone will be selling $28 billion worth of aircraft to Air India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways, which will create 280,000 jobs in the US. 

This, aside from the 50,000 jobs talked about in the media from deals worth $10 billion signed during his visit. 

Obviously, the table is turning. From the days of PL480, when our food security depended on wheat production in Nebraska, we have arrived at the point where Indian corporates are playing the role of ‘white knights’ in shining armour for the US economy. 
    
Aside from the bonhomie and dancing to Bollywood and folk tunes, there were serious exercises on institution building between the US and India. 

We now expect to see a joint clean energy research & development centre, a global disease detection centre and greater US participation in the global centre for nuclear energy partnership. 

Beyond these, the focus is also on deep scientific engagement in space, civil nuclear, defence, counter-terrorism and homeland security dialogue. 
    
Not too long ago, India and Pakistan were hyphenated by the US, with the balance always tilted towards Pakistan. 

Then came the stage of India being considered as a mere South Asian player, followed by India’s ascendancy to a regional entity. 

The Obama visit has broken the glass ceiling by recognising India’s importance in East Asia and West Asia, albeit an Asian power. 

Furthermore, US has conceded to broaden our strategic dialogue to cover other regions and areas of the world. 

In particular, attention was drawn to India’s role in Africa in collaboration with the US. 

It must be mentioned that Ficci had held a unique conference in Washington as recently as June 2010, in collaboration with Carnegie Centre, to explore the possibility of a joint US-India engagement in Africa. 

What is striking is that US Exim Bank offers only $440 million as credit line to Africa while China offers $13 billion! Interestingly, India recently announced $5.4 billion over the next five years as credit line to Africa. 

Now that President Obama visit has produced an explicit overarching statement on Indo-US collaboration in Africa, we hope to see some major partnerships in the near future. 
    
If one were to go beyond the transactional elements of this visit to the strategic and futuristic, it has to be defined by Obama’s commitment to what we call lifting of the technology denial regime. 

It must be appreciated that the US has the most complex exports control regulations, overseen by three silos — the Department of Commerce, the Munitions Controller and the Department of State. 

The underlying fear is that if, say, biotechnological material is given to a country to produce vaccines, it could use it to produce anthrax instead (terrorist-grade material). 

Similarly, advanced computers for monsoon predictions for the farmers could be used for missile simulation. 

This is what has come to be called the dual-use technology bogey. 
    
The Obama visit produced nothing short of trust, of which there was a big deficit. 

In the same breath, we can speak of the ‘entities list’. 

At one time, there were more than 200 Indian companies with whom no US company could trade or invest — the untouchables. 

That list was cut down to only four before the arrival of President Obama. 

Now, such sensitive entities like the DRDO and ISRO have been removed from this list. 

We must remember that out of the 16 rubrics of technology that could fall under dualuse regulation, India was denied 10, while other strategic partners in Europe were denied only four. 

We are encouraged by President Obama’s words in Parliament that “Indian companies seeking high-tech trade and technologies from America are treated the same as our closest allies and partners.” Bravo! 

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