The Message From New York

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s takeaways from his ongoing visit to the United States are being keenly watched. His primary challenges in this phase relate to improving India’s overall relationship with the U.S. while furthering his country’s global ambitions.
  • The decision, just hours before Mr. Modi boarded his flight, to clear defence purchases worth $3 billion from Boeing in many ways demonstrated the importance that New Delhi attaches to the state visit.
  • Expectedly, the Prime Minister has vigorously pushed for the reform of the UN Security Council — in speeches at the UN and later at a multilateral summit. Mr. Modi’s decision to host the summit of the Group of Four nations was one of the key moments of his diplomacy in New York.
  • While backing one another’s bid for permanent seats in the UNSC, India, Germany, Japan and Brazil have collectively called for urgent reforms of the Security Council within a time-frame. At another gathering, Mr. Modi invited U.S. companies to step up investments in India.
  • The top-level participation of American companies at the meeting, pointed to the importance U.S. industry is giving India. Executives from 42 Fortune 500 companies, with a combined net worth of $4.5 trillion, were there.
  • While the overall message from New York is positive, the government has to work hard to bring to fruition the goodwill established: the task begins now. India’s most important challenge here is to continue the campaign to reform the Security Council.
  • Nothing much has come out of India’s push over the years to restructure the global body. The challenge is to build a democratically evolved consensus among world powers, particularly among the Security Council members, on the need to reform the UNSC.
  • Second, though American companies are keen to invest in India, they remain wary of “complicated regulations, confusing bureaucracy and poor infrastructure”. If the government is serious about enhancing business and trade relations with the U.S. further, it should accelerate the pace of reforms at home and build quality infrastructure — of course making sure that its own long-term interests are not sacrificed or compromised.
  • Third, bilateral relations between India and the U.S. have always been a tricky area for decision-makers. While defence cooperation has improved over the years, the failure to operationalise the nuclear deal, Washington’s continuing support for Pakistan and reluctance to second major reforms at the UNSC are issues.
  • Besides, the principle of a multilateral approach in India’s foreign policy has not gone down well with the Washington elites. Mr. Modi ought to take up some of these issues when he meets Barack Obama on Monday. They should address them, so that what has often been termed a “natural alliance” could be firmed up to mutual advantage.