Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India visited President Obama, marking his second visit to the White House in two years. Like his two immediate predecessors, Obama has made special efforts to expand ties with India. Against the backdrop of a tough external environment— Iraq’s chaos, a truculent Russia, China’s increased assertiveness, unending conflict in Afghanistan—the U.S.-India relationship stands out as a rare bright spot, one that has spanned Democratic and Republican administrations alike.
Former president Bill Clinton opened the door to India in 2000 after decades of estrangement. And after him, George W. Bush recognized India’s strategic importance, and pushed through a civil-nuclear deal that permitted nuclear energy cooperation with India and brought the country inside the global nonproliferation tent. With the conclusion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to Washington yesterday, one thing is clear: Obama’s support for nurturing ties to India will be marked by his work with one of the world’s largest industrializing economies to curb climate change and support clean energy. This is not to suggest that the Obama administration has not advanced ties in other areas—including defense, counterterrorism, and homeland security—but to point out new ground covered during his presidency.