Why is Washington laying out the red carpet for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
The visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States has taken on new significance in the midst of global economic and geopolitical headwinds.
The White House is going all out to greet Mr Modi, who is on a state visit, the highest degree of diplomatic formality accorded to foreign leaders in the United States. Mr Modi will be greeted ceremoniously at the White House on Thursday before meeting with President Joe Biden in private.
Then there’s the state supper, a meeting with CEOs, a speech to a joint session of Congress, and speeches to Indian-Americans, all of which have been highlights of Mr Modi’s previous visits to the United States.
All of this for a leader who was previously denied a visa to visit the US due to human rights concerns; now, the US sees Mr Modi as a critical partner.
Behind the meticulously choreographed ceremonies are discussions that have the potential not only to reinvigorate India-US relations but also to have an impact on the global order.
The Indo-Pacific region may require India’s influence more than any other right now. The United States has long seen India as a counterbalance to China’s expanding power in the region, but Delhi has never been totally happy with the label.
It may be hesitant to do so, but China remains one of the primary drivers of India-US relations.
The China issue is key to the Quad Summit.
However, India has made decisions that have irritated China. Last year, it performed a military exercise with US forces in Uttarakhand, which shares a Himalayan border with China. Despite Beijing’s outrage, Delhi has continued to actively participate in the Quad, which also comprises the United States, Australia, and Japan.
Indian diplomacy has become more vocal in asserting that now is India’s moment on the global stage. It’s not without reason: India is currently one of the world’s few economic bright spots.Geopolitics is also on its side: most countries desire a manufacturing alternative to China, and India has a massive market with a growing middle class. This makes it a viable alternative for countries and multinational corporations adopting a China plus one policy.
Can India take over as the world’s factory from China?
According to Tanvi Madan, head of The India Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, what counts to the US is what India does, not what it says publicly about China.
“At the end of the day,” she said, “whether or not India has publicly embraced the label, it is very clear that Indian governments have seen the US relationship as beneficial in dealing with China.”
Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute in Washington, added that the two countries were now “seeing eye to eye on the broader Indo-Pacific theatre.”
“We are beginning to see the United States recognize the significance of the western components of the Indian Ocean region.” with many years, and with good cause, India’s primary focus was the Indian Ocean region. For the United States, it was the Pacific and the South China Sea. “They will now consider maritime security for the region,” he said.