US-India relations: Not perfect, but a good marriage

US-India relations: Not perfect, but a good marriage
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre L) walks with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 29, 2014.

Just like a husband and wife, India and the United States can build their relationship without always seeing eye to eye, visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told an American audience ahead of his meeting with US President Barack Obama.

Speaking at an event organised by the think-tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, he said in Hindi that the two countries need not have "comfort in everything".

"Even with a husband and wife, there is never 100 per cent comfort," he said.

His remarks were echoed in a joint vision statement issued by both sides on Monday, pledging stronger cooperation on a host of issues and a commitment to transform the relationship into one that will be a model for the world.

Mr Modi, who was hosted at the White House on Monday night, was to have an official meeting with President Barack Obama yesterday.

Many observers are hoping that the visit by Mr Modi will reset the US-India partnership that has recently been beset by a series of bilateral rows.

"Our strategic partnership rests on our shared mission to provide equal opportunity for our people through democracy and freedom," the vision statement said of the world's two largest democracies by population.

The countries will work together to combat climate change and terrorist threats, and will collaborate in the area of technology as well as work towards ensuring mutual economic growth.

"The currents of kinship and commerce, scholarship and science tie our countries together. They allow us to rise above differences by maintaining the long-term perspective," the statement said.

These recent differences include an episode last December when US authorities were accused of strip-searching an Indian diplomat who had allegedly mistreated her domestic worker.

A landmark civil nuclear deal with India has been stalled since 2010. US firms have yet to enter India's nuclear sector because of new laws that set strict liabilities on plant operators in case of a nuclear accident.

Last Friday, senior US officials said that a lawsuit initiated by a human rights group in New York against Mr Modi for his part in a Gujarat massacre would not distract the leaders from the "ambitious and exciting agenda between the two governments".

The officials also pointed out that a foreign head of government would enjoy diplomatic immunity.

The US imposed a visa ban on Mr Modi in 2005 after he was accused of not intervening to stop riots by Hindu extremists against minority Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 when he was the state's chief minister. Over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

Mr Modi has denied any wrongdoing.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Modi spoke at a breakfast meeting with 11 chief executives, including the CEOs of Caterpillar and Boeing, affirming his commitment to liberalising India's economy.

US business groups had urged Mr Obama to press Mr Modi on removing barriers to trade such as raised tariffs and testing requirements on some imported technology products.

At the CFR event, Mr Modi reiterated his stance on trade issues.

He said that while India is "not opposed to trade facilitation with regard to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)", he wanted to "ensure simultaneous progress on the food security front".

India did not meet the July 31 deadline for adopting the WTO's trade facilitation agreement, citing a lack of progress on food security measures.

Mr Modi was also asked if he would pursue arbitration on border disputes with China. He said both sides had agreed to engage in direct talks rather than turn to the courts.

This article was first published on October 01, 2014.
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