This Article is From Sep 30, 2014

PM Modi Will Show US He Means Serious Business

(Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Director of the party's Public Policy Research Centre. He is also a lawyer and has extensive experience in media and education.)

People generally tend to evaluate the success of international visits on how narrow the gap is between initial expectations and the final outcome, between hype and delivery.

The same holds true for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's current visit to the United States of America, where hype and expectations are rather high both in India and the US. No doubt when the Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy meets with the President of the world's oldest and most powerful democracy, it's an occasion to mark and take note of. Perhaps even celebrate.

The background to this visit is unique in itself. At one end is the reality of the US denying Mr Modi a visa in 2005 and the subsequent revoking of his tourist cum business visa. Both President Obama and Prime Minister Modi have already indicated the need to move ahead and strengthen ties. Yet, the fact remains that US foreign policy myopically boxed itself into a corner through a diplomatic misadventure. While this can certainly be relegated to the background, it cannot be erased from reality.

And there lies the first potential outcome for success - the meeting of the two leaders in person for the first time to set the tone and tenor of their working relationship ahead. That the process will be directly and personally driven by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is evident from the rather packed season of foreign policy initiatives over his first four months in office.

Another reality is that Indo-US relations have slowed down and lost significant steam over the last few years. The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) was signed between the two countries in early 2004 by Prime Minister Vajpayee's NDA government. Despite the Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2008, things haven't moved ahead. The economic slowdown, retrospective taxation decision against Vodafone, the season of mega scams and general policy paralysis robbed India of its sheen as an attractive investment destination.

Therein lies a logical and achievable outcome - this visit can reinvigorate the Indo-US story. Prime Minister Modi does not subscribe to a business-as-usual approach where the luxury of time is taken as an excuse to pace everything slowly. Narendra Modi is known to be a workaholic who measures success on the basis of achievements and not activity alone. He sets the objectives with target dates and consistently monitors the implementation process.

This approach also sets the tone for encouraging investments from the US into India. The government has already shed its lethargy and policy paralysis. A global launching of the "Make in India" initiative a day before the Prime Minister left for the US fits in well as a prelude to Prime Minister Modi's various meetings with leaders of global industrial and investment enterprises.

Additionally, there will be his much-awaited address before the United Nations General Assembly and numerous bilateral meetings and events. A community reception organised by the Indian Diaspora at the Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday will be a watched event. It's hardly routine that over 18,000 people have been issued tickets to listen to a political leader; several millions will join in over the live telecast of the event at Times Square, in universities and back home.

There is enormous hype and expectation around Prime Minister Modi's current visit. But that was to be expected. Expectations are most from those who perform. However, verdicts should be pronounced only after assessing everything in totality. Foreign relations, like everything  else of substance, are far more layered and complex than a two-minute instant meal.

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