When Modi and Obama meet next

File photo

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC, he was invited by President Obama for an official visit to the USA. So, PM Modi is travelling to the US for a visit on June 7-8 with earlier stopovers in Afghanistan and Qatar. In the USA, Modi will also be addressing the Joint Meeting of the US Congress. Modi’s visit comes at a time when the US is fully immersed in primaries for the next presidential election. Going by media reports, either Hillary or Trump are likely to win the race albeit both may lead the US quite differently – especially when it comes to dealing with terrorism, which by any measure cannot be confined to the ISIS.

While Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been reportedly killed in Balochistan through a US drone strike, Mansour being religious teacher of Haqqanis and an ISI protégé had perhaps been frequenting Balochistan, even provided sanctuary by Pakistan. He could have been assisting Pakistani genocide on Baloch civilians, coordinating operations with Jundullah, and more importantly helping in area sanitization for the CPEC in preparation of the PLA Divisions being deployed there – something that should concern the US too. Whether Mansour’s killing came as a surprise to Pakistan or Pakistan sacrificed Mansour by sharing information to please the US is not material. Even with Mansour eliminated, Pakistan’s hold on the Afghan Taliban-TTP remains effective with Haqqani Network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani (Mullah Mansour’s deputy) continuing in the same capacity as deputy to Mullah Haibatullah Akhundza, the new Afghan Taliban chief.

According to an MEA release, “The main objective of the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister would be to consolidate the progress made in diverse areas such as economy, energy, environment, defence and security, and to intensify cooperation for the future”.

PM Modi will also be interacting with CEOs of major US companies. China and Pakistan have been intently watching news about the three foundational agreements, Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMA), Communication and Information Security Memorandum (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), albeit India has clarified that it prefers a modified version of LEMA (called LEMOA) that suits India.

During the Indo-US Defence Minister level talks held on April 12 at New Delhi, both sides agreed to conclude LEMOA, commence navy to navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare, launch a bilateral maritime security dialogue, and initiate new joint technology projects. At least from reports in the New York Times, there are calls for the US Government to recognize the double game that Pakistan has been playing despite billions of dollars of US assistance. The US Congress too has been voicing the need for curbs on Pakistan. Increasing instability in Afghanistan is solely because of Pakistan’s mischievous conduct. And, most important are the aggressive moves of China in Asia-Pacific, Indian Ocean and through Pakistan. Deployment of three plus PLA Divisions in POK-Pakistan under pretext of protecting the CPEC fools no one of China’s strategic designs to dominate the eastern opening of the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz.

India has asked China to stop work in POK which she is unlikely to heed, especially when she is deploying missiles in Gilgit-Baltistan under pretext of hydel projects. With China objecting to visits by Indian Navy to the SCS, though endorsed by the US, it stands to logic that the US too should voice concern about presence of PLA in POK. Chinese submarines are not only frequenting the Indian Ocean regularly, her submarines have been prowling dangerously close to Andaman & Nicobar group of Islands, even as China has extended her EEZ arbitrarily and keeps establishing ADIZs. The pace of China’s militarization of SCS could lead to China declaring new ADIZs in the SCS.

In fact the China-Pakistan-North Korea axis is perhaps the biggest threat to regional and global security that has never been discussed. Little wonder that US is going in for long-term strategic partnership with India. However, discussions need to go beyond and at a holistic plane.

India definitely stands to gain from the Indo-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTII) given the pre-eminence of US companies in the techno-economic, digital and innovative spheres, especially with China going full hog in capacity building for conflict in every domain of war. Sure the US would pursue goals specific to US national interest but at the same time India too needs to promote and protect its own national interests.

So in nutshell it would be beneficial for both sides to indulge in plain speak, to arrive at a more mutually accommodating way forward leveraging the upswing in relations.

For example, the US has been more focused on Asia-Pacific rather than South Asia; looking at the China-North Korea relationship, not the dangers posed by the China-Pakistan-North Korea axis. The need of the hour is to reposition US-India and their strategic partners as a countervailing force to mellow threats posed by this trio, egging them to contribute to world peace rather than pursuing the path of aggression. Given the fag end of Obama’s tenure, his administration may find it difficult to get out of its time wrap but the US Congress would certainly appreciate plain talk, even as names of countries are kept out and mentioned only in closed door talks.

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