Obama and Modi celebrate Republic Day: strengthening America’s relationship with India through honesty
In asking US President Barack Obama to serve as his guest of honor in Sunday’s Republic Day celebrations, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonstrated his commitment to a closer relationship with the United States. President Obama’s participation in India’s “Fourth of July” celebration demonstrates India is among the President’s top priorities. Symbolically, the leaders of the two largest democracies coming together to share their first Republic Day provides a united front for democracy that foreshadows the future of governance throughout the globe.
As globalization continues to reshape the nature of the International Community, the world is democratizing. Not only are the governments of countries and the International Community as a whole democratizing, the many Peoples of the world are as well. This means governments must be increasingly responsive to the needs and wants of their Peoples in order to maintain stability and sustain peace.
Governments like that of newly minted Saudi Arabia King Salman may not become full-fledged democratic states, but they will have to become more sensitive to the voices of their Peoples and recognize modern governments exist to serve the interests of the People, not government exists to be served by their subjects.
That said, India’s greatest problem when it comes to offering responsive governance is its size, along with its legacy of weak, inefficient government. Providing enough food, water, shelter, energy, and jobs for what will be the world’s largest population in a few years is a challenge. Fortunately, America’s agricultural sector can help provide for the basic needs of the Indian People.
Increased access to the global economy will also help India’s educated develop businesses and earn wealth that can feed local economic development throughout India. That is if economic development is geared toward developing a diversified business profile for India, which caters to the local needs of Indians with local solutions instead of global economic demands taking center stage.
Furthermore, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi need to remember both countries have unresolved issues with each other. Like a solid marriage, the relationship between the United State and India needs to be constructed over years with issues resolved in at a reasonable pace. The United States made mistakes in its economic policies toward China that have hurt the American and Chinese People, i.e. economic ruin for the American People and a strengthening of the community government for the Chinese.
Elsewhere, the harmful side effects of free trade agreements need corrected, not escalated by making the same mistakes with India. A great deal of these negative outcomes stem from a failure of the US government to adequately address and balance the interests of the American Peoples in US trade policies.
The issue of cooperation on nuclear technology, for example, tops the list of issues Obama and Modi are likely to discuss. Given America’s diplomatic efforts to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program and Russia’s efforts to portray the United States as hypocritical, pushing a nuclear deal with India forward can come with hidden costs. As India has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and India has a growing number of issues related to the size of its population that could lead to instability in the future, i.e. a nuclear security threat, helping India pursue nuclear technology to limit its carbon emissions and improve trade with the US is likely not the best course at this time.
Addressing India’s civil and technological infrastructure is, however, a very pertinent discussion to be had. After all, the United States needs to become less reliant on Chinese manufacturing and that starts with addressing barriers, which inhibit business investment and development in India. Having the uncomfortable conversation on intellectual property theft and the need for stable, proper regulation is also necessary. As such, there are far more pressing issues when it comes to trade with India that must to be discussed and resolved in a thoroughly honest and respectful manner.
Above all, it is important for both President Obama and Prime Minister Modi to recognize the United States and India will not always share the same interests or the same point of view. Too often in the political world, disagreement is presented as a sign of division and conflict. In reality, it is a necessary part of any relationship. As such, it is reasonable, and necessary, for world leaders to be honest when the interests of their Peoples conflict with the interests of other countries. It is, after all, okay to respectfully disagree with each other.
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