Weekly Insights and Analysis

Obama Re-Iterates India-U.S. Global Partnership

November 10, 2010

By Rajendra Abhyankar

During his much-anticipated trip to India this week, President Obama mesmerized his diverse audiences in Mumbai, Delhi, and the country at large, with gracious participation from First Lady Michelle Obama. His speech to India’s Parliament with references to Gandhiji, Swami Vivekananda, Tagore, and Ambedkar, interspersed with Hindi words, literally left his audience speechless. He emphatically stated the importance of strengthening bipartisan relations going so far as to say that India-U.S. relations will be “the defining partnership of the 21st century.”

Obamas in India

During President Obama's visit to India, The Asia Foundation's Country Representative in Delhi, Nick Langton, had the opportunity to meet the president and his wife Michelle at a reception at the U.S. Embassy, where he snapped this photo. Photo by Nick Langton.

Obama said just about everything that Indians wanted him to say: he pressed Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice and the unacceptability of terrorist camps there; he acknowledged India’s positive development assistance in Afghanistan; he clarified that the U.S. could not mediate any solution on Kashmir, while welcoming dialogue between India and  Pakistan; he helped India to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other related groupings; he called for progress in implementing the civil nuclear agreement; he removed restrictions on trade in high technology and trade and Indian companies from the “entities list;” he supported India’s bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat (UNSC); and he called for a greater Indian role in East Asia, West Asia, and Africa. There is no doubt that in private conversations mutual concerns over challenges in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran were also discussed.

Although Obama’s emphasis was on strengthening the global partnership with India, he strongly pushed for new jobs and increased business from India’s massive market. Indian orders for 10 C-17 military cargo aircrafts and commercial aircrafts by SpiceJet airlines from Boeing, and the $10 billion deals inked during the Business Summit, were part of this sales pitch. He effectively sold U.S. technological prowess in “hard” areas like nuclear and military as well as in “soft” areas like clean energy and shale oil exploitation, weather forecasting, agriculture, and education. His visit will undoubtedly spawn new ventures and joint projects to increase bilateral commerce and investment, and an “evergreen revolution” to improve food security.

In his Address to the Indian Parliament, articulating his “idea of India” as the embrace of all, irrespective of color, caste, creed, or station in life, Obama rose above the mundane routine that is a feature of state visits these days. He set a forward-looking and highly ambitious agenda when he spelt out contents of the U.S.-India partnership to include shared prosperity, shared security, and strengthening the foundations of democracy, human rights, and justice in both countries and in the world. Obama also said, “India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged.”

In the context of U.S. support for India’s UNSC permanent seat, Obama emphasized that with “increased power comes increased responsibility” which India must assume. He also cited U.S. concerns over Iran and Myanmar – with whom India has good relations. He called for Iranian compliance on giving up its nuclear ambitions and respect its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations; and did not mince words in criticizing the Myanmar regime for its flawed elections.

Through his hugely successful visit, President Obama has laid down a “road-map” to continue expanding the India-U.S. relationship – whose parameters must be determined not only on the basis of India’s independent foreign policy, but also its core interest of alleviating the poverty, disease, and inequality that still affects a large proportion of India’s population.

Ambassador Rajendra Abhyankar is The Asia Foundation’s advisor in India. He can be reached at

Related locations: India
Related programs: International Cooperation


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