Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — During his landmark visit to India this week, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swapped hugs, sat side-by-side at India’s Republic Day Parade, and declared an era of “new trust” between the two nations.
But for all the colorful festivities and declarations of good will, what did the visit actually accomplish?
ABC News/Yahoo! News posed the question to the highest ranking U.S. diplomat to India, Ambassador Richard Verma, who explained why he believes the visit had “historic” implications.
“We talk about transformational moments, and transformational visits, I think this was one of them,” Verma said.
Obama’s visit to India — his second as president — came just four months after he welcomed Modi to the White House as India’s new prime minister.
“He was the first president to be here for India’s Republic Day; he was the first sitting president to visit India twice; and although these are symbolic gestures, they’re really indicative of where I think he wants to see the relationship go,” Verma said. “It’s very rare for two heads of state to come together, shake hands, [and] outline a very ambitious agenda.”
Verma pointed to the expansive scope of issues on which the two leaders declared cooperation as one measure of the trip’s success.
“If you look at the range of issues that the president and the prime minister talked about, I don’t think there’s hardly a subject that wasn’t covered,” Verma said. “From education to health to climate to energy, defense, nuclear energy, nuclear power, intelligence cooperation, homeland security, people-to-people contact, culture, intellectual property — they ran the gamut on subjects.”
In real terms, the visit produced specific agreements on a civil nuclear development program for India and also marked the renewal of a decade-long defense partnership deal, among other measures.
And though Verma said he would argue that India and the U.S. have had a good relationship for many years, he acknowledged certain tensions in the past.
“We can’t ignore history,” Verma said. “India had a proud and still has a proud history of being an independent country. …I would say we’ve been close, we’ve gotten closer over the last decade, and now I think, we have got a really great opportunity to take it even further.”
The display of a new U.S.-Indian friendship also had the effect of exposing fissures in the U.S. and India’s relationship with one of India’s neighbors: China.
“Our relationship with China, like India, has elements of cooperation and elements of competition,” Verma said. “To the extent that India and the United States can help promote democracy, can help promote a rules based border and defend the kind of peaceful resolution of these disputes in Asia, across the Indo-Pacific and into East Asia, that’s important.”
Read More →
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.