Very few countries have a military parade like our own Republic Day parade. China, North Korea, Russia are some of those countries that have one. Most of the developed nations don't see any logic in making a parade of students, soldiers and military hardware once a year either to boost patriotic jingoism or ward-off enemies. Then why would Barak Obama, President of the most powerful country on earth, that has a hundred times military hardware than India come all the way to Delhi to watch this parade?
To get the answer right, take a hard look at India's current economic status. Our economy is growing by 5.7% and is set to grow by 6.4% according to a projection by the UN. The country's stock markets are facing a bull run. Inflation has come down to just 4.38%. Oil price has hit the rock bottom. Government's import bill has reduced drastically. Country's festering wound of fiscal deficit gets a healing as a cumulative effect of all these.
The first budget may not have been a hit, but Arun Jaitely is all set to make the second, a bumper hit. Make in India, is a slogan that has received global resonance. All these makes India the place to go and be seen this season.
Which is why I say, Obama is not coming to see the Parade alone. There is a lot at stake. India has given a letter of intent to buy $10 billion worth of nuclear material from US suppliers. But the same can not be delivered as the Indian nuclear accountability law puts the liability, in the event of a disaster, on suppliers. US has a law which states that if the liability is on suppliers, then it should not be supplied. Here lies the intractable problem.
Coinciding with the arrival of Obama, Indian and US officials are holding talks to resolve the problem. An agreement may get thrashed out during the Presidential visit. After all, India needs nuclear materials, while US companies could do well with the bounty of $10 billion. If an agreement could not be reached, then a formal visit would be futile, while a visit to watch the parade with zero expectations, has no such problems. If an agreement is reached anyway, that would be a bonus and another feather on Obama's cap.
Containing India's carbon emission is another hot dish on the plate. India has the 4th largest emissions after China, US and Euro. US and China reached an agreement recently when china agreed voluntarily to reduce emission levels. US expects India to toe the line. It would mean moving to solar power on a massive scale, from high emission coal based power plants.
More economic liberalisation is another hot item on the agenda. There has been an agreement for joint development and production of armaments between India and the US. But it has not translated in to reality. It requires a heavy dose of liberalisation.
Only US has issues to be resolved with India? Doesn't India have any complaints against US? Yep, many. Restriction of Visas to Indian IT professionals and the steep rise in Visa fees is a thorny issue. US raised visa fees as high as $10000, for techies to make Indian IT companies less competitive. Supply of millions of dollars and arms to Pakistan is another Indian complaint.
Clearly as they say, America means business.
Lastpost: There has been a steady flow of VIP visitors to India recently. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, Mery Berra of Jack Ma are only some of them. It shows how India has become a permanent blip on their global business radars.