There are several gains India can muster from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing US tour; Quad is not one of them. But the Joe Biden administration is not solely to blame for the short-to-medium term inability of putting in place a counterbalancing act in the Indo-Pacific region, keeping Chinese expansionism in mind. Notwithstanding the existence of the office of the head of combined defence services, of which Gen Bipin Rawat is the first occupant, countries wishing to form military alliances with India find that they can collaborate with just one of the services — the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force — at a given point, which an Australian expert has pointed out. It is heartening to know that the Modi government has set 2024 as the deadline by when the Indian defence forces can work as one cohesive unit. It is then that we can ask for cooperative military exercises with allies and partners. Even after that, to be pragmatic, it must be known that the US will treat India as a client state just as it treats Australia. The country down under, whether under Scott Morrison or any other leader in Canberra, is easily arm-twisted by the Chinese, the world has witnessed in the past. Japan, whose premier Yoshihide Suga has had fruitful talks with Prime Minister Modi, shines as a beacon of hope, and that is not enough. Quad is in limbo. But these factors were known since the inauguration of the Biden administration — much before Modi’s current US visit was planned. Looking elsewhere, New Delhi must take advantage of the French displeasure over AUKUS to seek better military cooperation with Paris while also acquiring the deadliest of Russian military hardware, even if that comes at the cost of Washington’s comfort. US Vice-President Kamala Harris voluntarily bringing up the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism does not count; Democrat darlings of the media, as Hillary Clinton used to be not so long ago, are known to make vacuous, albeit politically correct, noises against Rawalpindi’s machinations. India and Pakistan otherwise remain hyphenated in their scheme of south Asian things.
Modi’s meeting with the head of the armed drone manufacturer General Atomics along with four other top US companies’ CEOs in Washington is, until then, a significant part of the prime minister’s US visit. Given that China has become the formidable force that it is riding on its economic clout, possible investments by semi-conductor major Qualcomm, global investment company BlackRock Inc, non-conventional energy leader First Solar and Adobe will guide India in that direction, more so as even the US is looking for an alternative commercial hub in this part of the world after the Covid-19 experience. Hopefully, communists and their saffron version, the swadeshi lobby, will not start agitating in the streets when the money arrives. There will probably never be a Sino-American war because of the billions of dollars invested in the ‘Middle Kingdom’. The trade-oriented US will, for the same reason, do everything to stop an attack on India if it hurts American commercial interest big-time. On this front, economic that is, MoUs must graduate to real deals while, taking hard lessons from the FDI that China receives, the Make-in-India programme must ensure that there is a reasonable ratio of profit-sharing between the licensed manufacturer here and the licence holder in the US. Competing with China in being cheap is not a feasible option for any country in the world, as that involves violations of internationally accepted industry norms. If the proof of the pudding lies in the eating, the US visit by Prime Minister Modi must translate to India becoming an inalienable part of a global resilient chain. Notably, the American media is not even covering the US visit by the real head of the Indian state, which means India is not as important in the eyes of Uncle Sam, which is a scenario that must change.