Rain on India's parade, but Obama visit keeps spirits high

Published: January 26, 2015
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US President Obama and India's PM Modi wave towards the media during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. PHOTO: REUTERS

US President Obama and India's PM Modi wave towards the media during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: Rain threatened to dampen the excitement around US President Barack Obama’s landmark visit to India as thousands of troops prepared on Monday for a dazzling military parade where he will be the chief guest.

The first US president to attend the annual show of military might that was long associated with the anti-Americanism of the Cold War, Obama spent the first day of his visit on Sunday bonding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sealing a clutch of deals.

The two leaders announced plans to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defense ties, steps they hope will establish an enduring strategic partnership.

Most significant was an agreement on two issues that, despite a groundbreaking 2006 pact, had stopped US companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India and had become one of the major irritants in bilateral relations.

“Mobama breaks N-deadlock,” the Mail Today newspaper said on its front page, which carried a photograph of Modi and Obama hugging each other warmly.

The bonhomie was a remarkable spectacle, given that a year ago Modi was persona non grata in Washington and was banned from visiting the United States for nearly a decade after deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in a state he governed.

Obama will be chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations in the capital, where tanks, troops and floats showcasing India’s cultural diversity will pass along Rajpath, an elegant lawn-bordered boulevard dating from the British colonial era that connects the presidential palace to India Gate.

Despite on-off rain and overcast skies, tens of thousands were gathered along the route for the annual spectacle.

Security was tight at the parade and across the city, where tens of thousands of police and paramilitary personnel were deployed on street corners and rooftops.

Obama’s presence at the parade – at Modi’s personal invitation – marks the latest upturn in a roller-coaster bilateral relationship that just a year ago was in tatters.

Bickering over protectionism culminated in a fiery diplomatic spat in 2013 and the abrupt departure of the US ambassador from New Delhi, who has only just been replaced.

The United States views India as a vast market and potential counterweight in Asia to a more assertive China, but has frequently been frustrated with the slow pace of New Delhi’s economic reforms and unwillingness to side with Washington in international affairs.

Elected last May, Modi has injected a new vitality into the economy and foreign relations and, to Washington’s delight, has begun pushing back against China across Asia.

The two leaders emerged from their talks on Sunday with a 10-year framework for defense ties and deals on cooperation that included the joint production of drone aircraft and equipment for Lockheed Martin Corp’s C-130 military transport plane.

Other deals ranged from an Obama-Modi hotline – India’s first at a leadership level – to financing initiatives aimed at helping India use renewable energy to lower carbon intensity.

Obama also enjoyed a close friendship with Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh, who staked his premiership on the controversial nuclear deal that made India the sixth “legitimate” atomic power and marked a high point in Indo-US relations.

The deal failed to deliver on a promise of business for US companies because of India’s reluctance to shield suppliers from liability, a deviation from international norms that reflects the memory of the Bhopal industrial disaster.

Obama will leave India slightly earlier than first scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah, skipping a planned visit to the Taj Mahal.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Tahir
    Jan 26, 2015 - 11:41AM

    Kashmir and relations vis a vis Pakistan are minor, fringe, petty issues for the India-US strategic partnership, not more than a couple of sentences, at most, would have been said about these minor things. Pakistan however, through its media and foreign office, has been fixated on this and considers dialogue with India a priority, although India doesn’t consider any interaction, whether dialogue, trade or even war with Pakistan to be a priority. The de-hyphenation from Indo-Pak to Af-Pak and Indo-Pacific is complete.

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  • Saif
    Jan 26, 2015 - 1:26PM

    What is there to talk about Kashmir now…being a Kashmiri myself I can tell u that we voted over 70% in recent elections in Kashmir(despite terrorist threats and attacks on normal people) ..so that shows our belief in Indian Democracy..so pls. worry about urself

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  • Someone
    Jan 26, 2015 - 2:26PM

    @Saif ur not a Kashmiri …….I can say that for sure …………
    @Tahir if war with Pakistan not a priority for India …then why r there regular ceasefire violations in Sialkot and the working boundry by Bsf?

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  • Hindustan
    Jan 26, 2015 - 3:09PM

    @Tahir – Again a so called Paki lame Comment……! Come out from fearing dreams and move for progressive Pak and proactive approach for mankind and forgiving. Common Pak needs security, love and prosperity :) Insa ALLAH – Jai Hind

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  • Musakhan2001
    Jan 26, 2015 - 3:15PM

    It’s clear sign that allah subhan wa talla is against Indo-US friendship .

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  • Tahir
    Jan 26, 2015 - 3:21PM

    @Someone. Border clashes have been going on since after the 1948 ceasefire every now and then, it’s only when the media of either country wants to play it up that it even gets reported. They even happen on things like cricket matches, radio banter between sentries, etc. To look at such minor issues and blow it out of proportion to think India is somehow planning for war is an alarmist overreaction.

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  • Umrao Jan
    Jan 27, 2015 - 3:42AM

    @Musakhan2001:

    And I am against it too.

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  • Gurion
    Jan 27, 2015 - 11:11AM

    @Musakhan2001:

    It’s clear sign that allah subhan wa
    talla is against Indo-US friendship

    So, what dies that tell you about the floods in Pakistan occupied Kashmir?

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  • Gurion
    Jan 27, 2015 - 11:25AM

    @Someone:
    >@Saif ur not a Kashmiri …….I can say that for sure …………

    Explain how.Recommend

  • Mega
    Jan 27, 2015 - 12:15PM

    @gurion tommorow you will say those 70% jammu Kashmiris who voted in indian jammu Kashmir elections are not Kashmiris too. For you any person who disagrees with you is not that person and an agent or a conspiracy. Because that’s the narrative you have build since past fifty years “stories by self appointed pandits in media not facts with proofs”.
    When bangladesh took to streets to protest against your politicians chastising them on their war criminal trials, you blamed india. When you clearly don’t know the sentiments of Bangladeshi when it comes to 71 or those religious fanatics. Your own PTI followers hurled bottles at million March in UK on Bilawal hijacking the issue, but your media blamed india. You blame india for Afganistan. But go on afgan online news sites. And see who the the afgan blames and hates and thanks for contributing for building up nation. Narratives are changed in your country no Osama,no we didn’t do Kargil no Kasab wasn’t pakistani. You had to admit all these by your own foriegn office later. As for kashmir there are 2types of people there, 1. hundreds of separatist-dharna wadi-anti development. The other who wants Education,jobs,good life free of voilence. They vote for stability. They work educate themselves and do jobs in dehli mumbai Bangalore or jk but want to stay with india because they see a future. Your country doesn’t offer them those incentives of rising power.

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