Ashley J. Tellis examines the importance of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visit to Washington for the Obama administration's first state visit, and weighing in on the best way forward with US-Indian cooperation.
India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, will come to Washington on November 24, 2009, for the first state visit hosted by President Barack Obama. This event will be widely viewed as evidence of the importance attached to maintaining the upward trajectory in U.S.-Indian relations. By all accounts, the two leaders have already established a good working relationship-something skeptics feared was impossible given the prime minister's warm regard for President George W. Bush and the differences between Bush and Obama on many issues involving India. The global economic crisis, however, appears to have enhanced the personal collaboration between the two leaders, as many of Singh's ideas for stimulating the global revival have been backed by Obama in various forums, including most recently at the Group ofTwenty's summit in Pittsburgh.
Both the United States and India will therefore seek to use Singh's forthcoming visit to showcase the promise of bilateral cooperation
and to foster enhanced partnership in the five key areas agreed upon earlier this year-strategic cooperation; energy and climate change; education and development;economics, trade, and agriculture; science
and technology, health, and innovation (as described in Policy Brief 81). Despite these good intentions, however, the Obama administration is concerned that this visit may be unfavorably compared with the last summit between the two heads of government when, on July 18, 2005, President Bush and Prime Minister Singh stunned the international community with their agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation. That deal undoubtedly galvanized the bilateral relationship, cemented personal ties between the two leaders, and focused global attention on the growing geopolitical convergence between Washington and New Delhi.