Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

Clean air and nukes in pivotal US shift

As China expressed cautious support for India's inclusion to the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) following the India-US breakthroughs on an earlier Republican brokered deal and President Obama headed from Delhi's colourful Republic Day parade with nuclear supplier liability issues somewhat resolved and a clear call from him at a townhall-style meeting for continued religious tolerance in the country, the world is having its say.

In Pakistan, the Daily Times, said Mr Obama's visit, " yielded breakthroughs". It focused on the dilemma posed by the India-US-Pakistan "triangular conundrum". In a 27 January, 2015, editorial, it wrote, that the India-US strategic alliance "will put the final seal on India’s abandonment of its traditional non-aligned status. The development obviously carries implications for Pakistan too, not the least whether US willingness to supply weapons and allow some defence equipment to be manufactured in India will tip the strategic balance in South Asia in favour of New Delhi."

The Dawn newspaper in Pakistan noted the India-US document, "reiterated Pakistan’s obligation to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage to book."

In the China Daily, China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was reported as saying, "China hopes that the development of US-India relations will help promote mutual trust and cooperation among countries in the region." China and India have been moving closer on bilateral ties of late and President Xi Jinping made a landmark visit to New Delhi in September 2014. China has edged out USA and UAE to become India's largest trading partner.

Praveen Swami joked in the Indian Express newspaper on 27 January, 2015, that "for the most part, the summit between United States President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been read as a kind of upmarket bazaar negotiation — two leaders haggling over goods and their price."

The commentator stressed that "It is important to note that Modi’s message is also directed at his own party — a party in which Home Minister Rajnath Singh laments young Indians’ admiration for the West and Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj once cast the India-US deal as treason. Modi is thought to have disagreed with his party’s resistance to the nuclear deal as well as to FDI in retail. Through the summit, he is letting the BJP know his way has wide backing among the constituency that brought them to power."

Ellen Barry in The New York Times touched on the fact that when Mr Obama arrived as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on 26 January, he was "the first American leader to do so. In the 65 previous parades, the chief guest has twice been Soviet, once Russian, twice Yugoslav, three times French, twice British, once Chinese."

The NYT opinion piece concluded, "Mr Obama and the American delegation have made it clear they want to compete for India’s defense dollars, renewing the defense pact between the two countries on Sunday and agreeing to cooperate on aircraft carrier and jet engine technology. They also agreed to work on joint production of small-scale surveillance drones." This is what raised Pakistani eyebrows.

A former Indian ambassador Rakesh Sood, writing in The Hindu, described it as a "transformational" meeting, where "The centrepiece of the visit has been the nuclear deal."

The Guardian quipped, "Barack Obama was advised, only half-jokingly, to wear a gas mask." Unsurprisingly, combating climate change remains high on the agenda with the US pushing for "India, one of the world’s biggest emitters, to commit to an ambitious post-2020 plan for reining in its greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the international climate change meeting in Paris this December." This will mean offering India alternatives for cleaner energy. - Asian Conversations