Columnist & Journalist Shekhar Gupta, feels the arrival of the new government has been a bigger game-changer than Obama’s visit.
“The election in India last year had been a game-changer and similarly the nuclear deal in 2007-08 was. It could not fully change the game at that point in time as UPA II and the Congress lost interest. However, last year was important as it brought in a government with a majority under Narendra Modi, who believes in the same policy and has the mandate and the political capital now to take it forward,” he said.
Political analyst Sanjaya Baru compares what’s happening in India today to what happened to relationship between Japan, US and China during the Cold War, which set the stage for China’s rise as a political and economic power.
“During the Cold War, the Chinese took a strategic decision to ally themselves with the US and completely finish off the Soviet Union… It is very clear that both sides viewed the strategic relationship as a way of changing the international global order,” he said.
He however thinks that the only difference is that India is not a position to wish away China as it is an important neighbour.
“China has certainly done much better for itself than the Soviet Union was able to but on the other hand the relationship with the US will certainly help India in dealing with the challenges posed by China’s rise,” he said.
Below is the transcript of Shekhar Gupta and Sanjaya Baru’s interview with CNBC-TV18’s Menaka Doshi and Senthil Chengalvarayan.
Senthil: Landmark visit or just another routine visit because lots of intent, nothing really specific on the ground signed but then do you really expect anything to be signed at the visit on this level?
Gupta: India and the US have no treaties left to sign, India and US have no disputes to resolve.
Senthil: IPR, Visa something handed out?
Gupta: Those are things that go on all the time. The heads of states don’t do these. Now this visit is not a game changer but I would say, the election in India was. Similarly, the nuclear deal in 2007-08 was a game changer. It could not fully change the game then because the United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA), the Congress party lost interest in that policy. Last year it became a game changer because it brought in a government with a majority under Narendra Modi who believes in the same policy and who has the mandate and the political capital now to take it forward.
In fact two things; one, India inviting the US President as a chief guest on Republic Day shows a huge shift in India. This has now completely put the clock back old Cold War-style politics and I can see many disapproving voices in the old establishment.
Second, his statement just the other day that nuclear deal is the centrepiece of the changing and growing India-US relationship. His party had just six years back voted firmly against a nuclear deal to bring down the government that signed the nuclear deal, claiming in fact that the government had sold away India’s sovereignty and that signing that deal was an anti-national act. So, this is a game-changer. The visit it not a game changer, but the arrival of a new government is.
Senthil: You compare what is happening today in India -with what happened in relationship between Japan, US and China during the cold war and that really set the stage for China’s rise as a political and economic power. Why do you say that?
Baru: First of all let me also add that I agree with whatever Shekhar has just said and to respond to your question the fact is that during the cold war the Chinese took a strategic decision to ally themselves with the United States and completely finish off the Soviet Union. The China people forget this that China was a US ally in China’s own disputes against the Soviet Union and the United States in fact saw China as such if you read all the books about the dialogue between Nixon and Deng Xiaoping and Kissinger’s meetings with Deng Xiaoping, it is all very clear that both sides viewed the strategic relationship as a way of changing the international global order and somewhere in the back of the American mind with China’s rise in the back of the Japanese mind with China’s rise they do see of course India as a new element in the large big power game.
The only difference is that India, I don’t think, is in a position to wish away China. It is an important neighbour and China has certainly done much better for itself than the Soviet Union was able to but on the other hand the relationship with the United States will certainly help India in dealing with the challenges posed by China’s rise. I am not suggesting that India would be a part of any containment strategy against China but a stronger India will ensure a better balance of power within Asia and certainly will ensure a better balance of power globally.
Senthil: Would you say that the New Delhi declaration is more than just diplomatese and really signifies something?
Baru: Yes, there I disagree with Shekhar. The 3,900-word document is a joint statement, it is a lengthy thing but that is not the key statement of this visit. It is the declaration of friendship and the studied vision and I don’t think they are written by diplomats in the foreign ministry. These are documents that come straight out of the Prime Minister’s office and the White House. That is my information and certainly they are important documents. In fact they get into new areas, they specify specific areas of co-operation.
For the first time we are talking about defence co-operation in a way in which we have not done in the past. We are talking about intellectual property rights protection; we are talking about a shared view on the climate change with a lot of specifics in the declaration of friendship. So, basically what the United States and India is saying is we are friends and therefore we are going to work in these areas and take the relationship forward.
So, in that sense those two documents, the strategic vision document and the declaration of friendship are important documents. Of course the joint statement more or less sums up everything that has happened over the last several years and that maybe a wordy statement, but I would not belittle these statements because they do constitute the framework for going ahead. They are no longer about the past, they are about the future.