A year after decisively resetting US-India ties and setting a new rockstar bar for community outreach in New York, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s current US visit stands to bring expectations back down to Earth. Most of his visit will be focused on the UN, outreach to Silicon Valley’s Indian diaspora and to American business leaders. But the multilateral agenda is complicated and slow-moving; so are India’s economic reforms, which hold the key to attracting further business and investment. From the Modi agenda in the US, then, look not for big breakthroughs, but for incremental progress on issues important to both New Delhi and Washington.
Last September, Modi’s US visit received a stratospheric level of attention. His Madison Square Garden homecoming by the Indian-American community was charged with excitement. The Modi-Barack Obama summit in Washington, with a symbolic stroll around the Martin Luther King Jr memorial, begat a bromance and resulted in the joint declaration of an Indo-US “vision statement”. A mere four months later, the bonhomie continued when Modi offered a precedent-breaking invitation to Obama to be the first-ever American chief guest at India’s Republic Day. That summit resulted in an important “Delhi Declaration of Friendship” and a “Joint Strategic Vision for the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific Region”.