Narendra Modi, the newly elected prime minister of India and leader of more than 1 billion people, made his maiden visit to the White House at President Obama’s invitation en route to the U.N. General Assembly. Last May, Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party won the popular vote with a clear majority to govern India for the next five years. This was the first time in the past 30 years that any single political party has received the people’s mandate, which empowers Modi for providing a strong and stable government and setting his agenda of development and good governance. He declared during his election campaign and recent speeches that he will revive India’s economy, which lost direction under his predecessor.
Obama, in his address to the Indian Parliament in November 2010, envisioned a stronger relationship between the two largest democracies in the world – India and the United States. However, at the end of last year, U.S. relations with India were strained after an Indian diplomat was arrested in New York, strip-searched and charged with visa fraud. The most recent hurdles have been alleged U.S. electronic eavesdropping on Modi’s political party and India blocking a major World Trade Organization deal on custom procedures. In July, a former U.S. ambassador to India, Frank Wisner, told a Senate subcommittee, “Since 2010, the high watermark of President Obama’s trip, the relationship has been on hold, if anything, I would say it’s atrophied and requires attention.” He added that “the determination of Modi to shape almost in an executive manner the agenda of his country means that the United States is facing an uncommon partner across the table, an uncommon opportunity and one that is likely to be with us for a good 10 years.”
Recently, President Obama has called the U.S. partnership with India a “defining partnership for the 21st century.” And as we go about the much-talked about “Asia rebalance,” there’s no more important partner for the United States in the region than India. The growing convergence of our interests and outlook has brought about unprecedented cooperation on regional and global security, economics and trade, education, science and technology, clean energy, health, and counterterrorism. Our governments have worked hard, especially in the last decade, to broaden and deepen this cooperation for the benefit of our citizens of our two great democracies. India needs foreign investments in agriculture and infrastructure, manufacturing and service sectors to create jobs for its youth – with nearly 65 percent of its population below the age of 35. And the U.S. needs a strong India to keep China’s growing influence at bay.
For more information on India’s New Government and Implications for U.S. Interests, please see a study issued in August 2014 by the Congressional Research Service.