Significant Gains from Deepening Indo-US Ties

Source: Economic Times

What are the real gains that we can expect from the visit of US President Barack Obama to India? Yes, Obama used his executive powers to remove intrusive US demands to inspect American-built nuclear facilities here; but Manmohan Singh and George W Bush had agreed that multilateral IAEA was best qualified to check whether India was using its reactors to make bombs or energy. Today, the US is a marginal producer of nuclear gear, and the gains from this headline action will be marginal. More to the point, additional trade and investment have been promised, even if the terms are a bit vague.

There are two big areas where this relationship can move ahead: clean energy and geopolitical relations. America has invested billions of dollars and more, to ensure it has uninterrupted electricity to power its innovation-economy with the least polluting fuels. It will soon have near-zero reliance on oil exporters in western Asia. The most important plank of our future relationship has to revolve around this. The US has abundant supplies of clean gas and shale oil on its shores. Most of India, in contrast, runs on imported oil. The rest is run on costly and polluting fuels like coal, with primitive technologies. Alternatives like wind and solar are unlikely substitutes for our huge potential demand. To boost relations, the US can transfer clean coal technologies to India, reducing emissions while improving the delivery of power.

America wants to position India as a bulwark against rising Chinese power. Sure, India should rise, but not against China. From Nehru’s era at the height of the Cold War, we have managed an equidistance that has served us well. China is an immediate neighbour, heir to an ancient civilisation that India has fed into and off, and coexisted with, besides. India and China will determine mutual relations on their own terms, not on anyone else’s. But the fact remains that India’s rise will be a positive contribution to China’s rise remaining peaceful, as Beijing wants it to be. It is our government’s job to communicate this right, to the rest of the world.

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