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`Indo-US ties back on rails as Modi, Obama take ownership'

By The Assam Tribune

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS): India's relationship with the US is back on the rails with US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking its ownership, former Indian ambassador Meera Shankar has said, noting that the outcome of Obama's visit last month was marked by pragmatism and convergence.

Speaking at a panel discussion on `Indo-US relations after the Republic Day Parade' at the India Habitat Centre here, Shankar said that the visit had helped reset the bilateral relationship. "Overall it was extremely positive. It was high on both symbolism and substance," Shankar noted.

Obama's visit to India on Jan 25-27 was marked by several firsts. He is the first US President to visit India twice while in office, the first to be chief guest at Republic Day parade and the first to do a joint radio broadcast with the Indian Prime Minister.

Shankar, who has been India's ambassador to the US, said that the India-US nuclear deal changed the international regime for India but the bilateral relationship hit a plateau subsequently as the two governments focused on their domestic issues.

"The relationship is now back on the rails. (These are) leaders who are taking ownership focused on broader strategic aspect," Shankar said at the discussion organised by the Indo-American Friendship Association.

Referring to the nuclear deal which was conceived in 2005 but could not be operationalised due to US concerns on India's liability clauses, she said that there was effort by both sides to move ahead pragmatically. She said the two sides sidestepped some contentious economic issues, focused on larger business picture, worked for concrete action in renewable energy and decided to move beyond buyer-seller relationship in defence.

Referring to the US-India joint vision for the Asia Pacific and India Ocean region which referred to South China Sea, she said that the two countries had stated their convergence publicly which was a departure from the past.

Modi-Obama hugs defined success of Obama's India trip: A leading Indian-American attorney in Washington has suggested that Modi-Obama hugs contributed to the success of President Barack Obama's visit to India to be the chief guest at India's Republic Day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had broken protocol to greet Obama at the New Delhi airport with a hug, noted New York-based Ravi Batra, who is Chair of the National Advisory Council of South Asian Affairs, in an interview with an ethnic newspaper.

"Obama's trust in India's durable commitment to the rule of law, honest desire to honour the spirit of the agreements and national aspirations that embrace peace and abhor war" measured the success of Obama's India trip, he told the South Asian Times.

Modi's coming to power with a big mandate and his taking "taking exceptional risks"also helped, he said. "Modi is mandate-rich. But that is only a 'root' cause," Batra said.

"He must be given credit for taking exceptional risks - running an American style campaign, with Arab Spring-loaded social media, and then governing as a corporate CEO."

The noted attorney also suggested that "India and Indian-Americans must divorce their partition-based Pakistan-psyche." They should instead appreciate, Batra said that US support of Pakistan and its military for five decades has helped to reduce tension in the subcontinent and remain a nation.

"It is now a fact that America and India are global partners," he said.

Asked what else India can look forward to from warmer relations with US, Batra said "America's 'special relationship' with Great Britain will in time be judged against America's 'special relationship' with India."

"India will be the secret ingredient to a strong and durable American Dream for all," he said adding, "As an Indian-American, it doesn't get any better."

Asked if he feared that the Republicans may try to undo what Obama has wrought in India-US relations, Batra noted that Republicans too had "worked hard and took political risks to get where we were" before the Devyani Khobragade affair.

"All Indians and all Americans have a legitimate right to claim ownership of this Obama-Modi Hugs-success," he said.

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