Why Obama's India Trip Matters

A grand gesture for U.S.-India ties, but hurdles remain

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President Barack Obama is on a high-profile diplomatic trip to India this week, furthering Obama's goal of deepening U.S.-India ties and addressing a number of related issues. Since entering office, Obama has continued President George W. Bush's emphasis on building a special relationship between the two countries, making Indian Prime Minister Manmohan K. Singh the guest of honor at Obama's first official state dinner. Here's what's happening on the visit, why it matters, and what it could mean for the two countries and beyond.

  • Why the U.S. and India Want to Be Best Friends  The New York Times' Jim Yardley writes, "Both countries are eager to build on their improved ties and set up a unique, special relationship, given that together they represent the world’s richest and largest democracies. Faced with a rising authoritarian China, and an economically wounded Europe, a weakened United States is casting about for global partners. India would seem a nice fit." 
  • ...And Why That's Proving So Difficult  Yardley explains the security disputes: "The Americans, at different times, have pushed the Indians to cut a deal with Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, but the Indians have bristled at any interference. The Indians still want the Americans to sponsor India for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Not such an easy thing, the Americans reply, since America alone can’t do this and it creates issues between America and China. It has sometimes seemed like a relationship built around one country asking the other to do something it considers against its self-interest." And the economic disputes: "High unemployment in America has renewed complaints that outsourcing to India hurts American workers. Indians complain that American protectionism is hurting Indian companies and that American export restrictions on technologies that can have both military and civil uses are outdated and unnecessary in a relationship between putative allies."
  • Obama's Grand Gesture to India  The Associated Press's Erica Werner reports, "President Barack Obama backed India for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council Monday, a dramatic diplomatic gesture to his hosts as he wrapped up his first visit to this burgeoning nation. Obama made the announcement in a speech to India's parliament on the third and final day of his visit. In doing so, he fulfilled what was perhaps India's dearest wish for Obama's trip here. India has been pushing for permanent Security Council membership for years."
  • Can India Continue Moving Ahead?  Foreign Policy's Arvind Panagariya notes that India is still "one of the poorest countries in the world," but "the United States and many other countries are betting on India not because of where it stands today, but where they see it going in the next 15 years. ... But none of this will matter if India fails to fulfill its economic promise. As the recent revelations about corruption and mismanagement of the Commonwealth Games dramatically showed, India's government still has a long way to go -- the country's phenomenal success over the past two decades has come largely because its politicians and bureaucrats have gotten out of the way."
  • U.S. Must Choose Between Pakistan and India  The L.A. Times' Selig Harrison warns, "A quiet crisis is developing in what seems, on the surface, to be an increasingly promising relationship between the world's two largest democracies. ... [India worries] that the United States can hardly be a strategic partner if it continues to build up the military capabilities of a hostile Pakistan that sponsors Islamist terrorists dedicated to India's destruction. ... the full potential of U.S.-Indian cooperation, including naval cooperation in the face of an increasingly ambitious China, will not be realized until Washington stops providing Islamabad with weaponry that can be used against India and takes a realistic view of the reasons for Indian-Pakistani tensions."
  • Get Indian Influence Out of Afghanistan  David Pollock writes in the Washington Post that their presence makes the war tougher. "India, of course, is an increasingly important regional and global partner for U.S. foreign policy. But it is in India's self-interest to contain extremist pressures in Afghanistan and Pakistan - and one paradoxically clever way to do that is to lower India's profile in Afghanistan. During his visit, Obama should drive home the point that such self-restraint would best serve our common interest in stabilizing the region."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.