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A transformed India: Why?

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agarwalvj
agarwalvj
Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to the US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently, he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.

I have lived in the United States since 1978 and delved into U.S.-India relations starting with Jimmy Carter as President to date. Never before, I have heard a more confident India’s Prime Minister stand at the podium in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 25 and proclaim, “When India reforms, the world transforms.”

I wondered what was on Modi’s mind. He cited India’s population as a positive narrative that one of every six persons on the earth is an Indian. Modi has always boasted India’s population being the youngest as demographic dividend and an exporter of trained technology talent to the world. Today, dozens of Indian-origin CEOs head the technology companies like Google and Microsoft, just to name a couple.

It is worth noting that Modi, the disciplined and work alcoholic, conducted 20 meetings in about 65 hours on the U.S. soil from landing on September 22 to take off on the 25th. This is a man I call a politician, strategist, diplomat, and technocrat in his own right with a calm and often mesmerizing personality.

Thinking about Modi’s many meetings, they seemed transactional at the outset. As a nationalist leader, he was fulfilling his promise and purpose in seeking collaboration, cooperation, and investments to protect and promote India’s interests. In the process, he projected India as a “transformed” country extending bilateral trade to meet the aspirations of nearly 1.4 billion people. The world knows how India’s technology talent keeps things moving uninterruptedly. It was the Indian talent who saved the U.S. from the Y2K syndrome during Clinton’s Presidency. In fact, I was serving as a policy analyst in White House OSTP that year.

It is no brainer that Modi laid down India’s strengths, excellent business climate, and political stability when he was meeting with the CEOs and seeking Foreign Direct Investment for transformed India. Based on media reports, the CEOs appeared assured that their FDI will be safe and they can expect excellent ROI, the bottom line for the shareholders.

Coincidentally, a recent book, “Brand New Nation: Capitalist Dreams and Nationalist Designs in Twenty-First Century India (2020),” focuses on India’s transformation. The author reviews the long history of the economic reforms and discusses the yet ongoing transformation of postcolonial India into an ‘attractive investment destination.’ What the author calls a ‘brand-new nation,’ I am calling a “Transformed India.”

The readers must be reminded that Modi’s visa was revoked by the United States in 2006 but since becoming the Prime Minister, he has visited the U.S. seven times in as many years.

Modi’s earlier visits were unprecedented. His first visit soon after his electoral victory in 2014 began with a momentous welcome by the Indian diaspora in New York city’s Madison Square Garden. In the same visit, the United Nations declared June 21 as the International yoga day for the good of humanity. Perhaps, that was the beginning of India’s transformation. Subsequently, his cozy relationship with Obama and yet the cozier chemistry with Trump continued. Never before, Trump as a sitting President traveled to Houston to greet India’s Prime Minister. India did not transform overnight but India made gradual transitions with transforming strokes one at a time.

Were the rest of Modi’s bilateral meetings with the leaders of the United States, Japan, and Australia transformational? I say, unequivocally, yes. Why? Perhaps, the bilateral meetings with Harris and Biden started as transactional but soon turned into discussing the global issues. This included terrorism, energy, environment, sustainability, how to vaccinate the COVID infected world, Taliban occupied Afghanistan as a potential threat to girls and women among other things. The India-U.S. strategic dialog was certainly a major agenda of their meetings.

Biden inviting Modi to Washington for a face-to-face QUAD meeting is clearly a sign of India being transformed from a struggling economy of a third-world country to a steadily rising economy today. Admittedly, India’s former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an economist, had opened the doors for foreign investments in India. I have seen U.S.-India relations being on a roller coaster in the nearly 43 years of living in the U.S. and traveling to India regularly.

The leaders of four democratic countries in QUAD discussing the global geopolitical diplomacy against the invisible elephant in the room (China) is transformational and triumphant for India. A reluctant partner at first, India is now a trusted partner of the U.S., Japan, and Australia. These four countries and many others are faced with challenges vis a vis China’s trade policies, expansionism, and territorial disputes.

India, for example, had a short-lived border war with China in 1962 but persistent skirmishes and threats along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region ever since. However, the transformed and strong defense capabilities of India have kept China at bay but who knows when things may escalate.

Other QUAD countries have been threatened by China differently; Australia’s dissatisfaction about trade practices, Japan’s dispute about an island claimed by China, and the longstanding issues of stealing the intellectual property to the trade war and imbalance with the U.S. The mother of all is the COVID-19 which originated in Wuhan and led to the collapse of the global economy. How ironic that China was the single-source supplier of COVID-related manufactured goods from the masks to incubators.

In addition to the ongoing joint defense exercises by QUAD and holding regular QUAD meetings, transformed India was trusted and tasked to supply 1 billion vaccines to help vaccinate the less privileged against the fatal COVID-19. This is a clear sign of India’s unprecedented technological and manufacturing prowess and transformation.

 Returning to the UNGA, the world was told in no uncertain terms that if India grows the world grows. With a high degree of confidence, Modi made sure not to dignify Pakistan and China by name in his remarks even once and yet sent a stern message to both. He put both on alert for not using Afghanistan’s soil for breeding terrorists and harboring terrorism. Modi philosophically raised the issue of the South China sea, “Humare samandar bhi humari sajha virasat hai.” (Our oceans are also our shared heritage) which are not to be abused by any country.

Another act of India’s transformed global diplomacy is that a highly skilled diplomat was assigned to offer a fitting response to the barrage of lies and accusations by Pakistan’s Imran Khan. He delivered his UNGA address just the day before that of Modi. India’s matured and transformative democracy before the world stage was also evident that Modi only delved into strategic global issues and challenges and where possible and necessary, he offered how India could help.

The twenty-first century new India has come a long way in becoming more transformational in its policies, practices, politics, and people-to-people exchanges. India’s critics may argue that recent laws such as the CAA and the revocation of Article 370 and 35 A in Jammu and Kashmir are contrary to India’s constitutional mandate of being secular. India’s critics should know that the CAA is nothing more than the U.S.’s Lautenberg Amendment of 1990. Also, Articles 370 and 35A were only ‘temporary’ to begin with and these were revoked by India’s duly elected Parliament to offer equal rights to all Indian citizens.

India under Modi’s leadership is not only transforming economic reforms but has attained her due place and prestige being equal among the nations. No wonder that India’s reforms are leading the world to transform.

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agarwalvj
agarwalvj
Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to the US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently, he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.
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