U.S. President Barack Obama ended his landmark visit to India with a $4 billion investment and loan pledge, seeking to release the "untapped potential" of a business and strategic partnership between the world's largest democracies. Earlier, Obama became the first U.S. president to attend India's annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might. Troops, tanks and cultural floats filed through the heart of New Delhi and excitement ran high over Obama's visit. In the bargain, there have been a clutch of deals in nuclear trade and defence ties.
Both sides hope to build momentum to build a relationship to help balance China's rise by projecting as a major world power. The leaders talked on first name terms, recorded a radio programme Mann Ki Baat together and spent hours speaking at different events. India accounts for only 2 % of American imports and 1% of its exports. While the annual bilateral trade has reached $100 billion, it is less than a fifth of the U.S. trade with China. The U.S. investment in India has doubled in the past four months.
To renewable energy, a key focus for Modi, $2 billion will be committed by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Most significant was an agreement on issues that had stopped U.S. companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India and had become one of the major irritants in bilateral relations.
Obama and Modi sat behind a rain-spotted screen as the parade unfolded along Rajpath, an elegant lawn-bordered boulevard. Helicopters showered petals on the crowds, and then tanks, missiles, soldiers, brass bands and dancers filed past the guests. Obama's presence signalled Modi's willingness to end India's traditional reluctance to get close to any big power. Obama's second visit to India is the latest upturn in a roller-coaster relation with Washington scarred by protectionism and a fiery diplomatic fight.
The USA views India as a vast market and potential counterweight to China's assertiveness, but has been frustrated with the pace of New Delhi's economic reforms. "There are still too many barriers, hoops to jump through, bureaucratic restrictions that make it hard to start a business, or to export, to import, to close a deal, deliver on a deal," Obama told a forum of CEOs from both countries in New Delhi.
They also agreed to a 10-year framework on deepening defence ties and struck deals on cooperation that included joint production of drone aircraft and equipment for Lockheed Martin Corp's C-130 military transport plane.