- Obama‘s three-day visit aims to consolidate Washington's strategic partnership with New Delhi.
- The visit is more symbolic than pragmatic, given the long-standing division between the two giants.
- For India, a closer relationship with the United States is compatible with its multi-faceted diplomacy.
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in India on Sunday for a three-day visit to consolidate Washington's strategic partnership with New Delhi.
The highly anticipated visit makes Obama the first U.S. president that visits India twice during his rein and also the first that has the honor to attend India's Republic Day Parade, apparent proof of the closeness between the two countries.
However, the shortened three-day visit is more symbolic than pragmatic, given the long-standing division between the two giants, which may be as huge as the distance between them.
After all, only one year ago, U.S. diplomats were expelled from New Delhi amid widespread public outrage over the treatment of an Indian diplomat in New York and Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister and then chief minister of Gujarat, was still banned from entering the United States.
But that is not all to that. What lies under the superficial rapprochement is nothing short of a deal.
For one thing, Obama's "Pivot to Asia" policy has been distracted or even derailed by the undying conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine.
He needs this trip to tell the Capitol Hill and his supporters that his administration can make progress on important relations. More frankly, he needs India to side with him.
For India, a closer relationship with the United States is compatible with its multi-faceted diplomacy and could be commercially beneficial.
Three days are surely not enough for Obama and Modi to become true friends, given their hard differences on issues like climate change, agricultural disputes and nuclear energy cooperation.
For climate change, Obama has made the issue a policy priority for his second term and pressed emerging economies like India to shoulder disproportional share of burden.
However, being the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, India is heavily dependent on coal-fueled plants. As a matter of fact, economic growth and eradication of poverty is more urgent for Indian officials than cutting carbon emissions.
As for agricultural disputes, India has long taken a tough stance on the issue of foodgrain and its differences with the Unite States in this regard had stalled for months the implementation of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Concerning nuclear energy cooperation, Washington and New Delhi have long been engaged in a complicated dance since 2008.
With such a long list of differences on the table, Obama will face a hard job to have his Indian friends on the same page.