Any Indian state visit that runs into an important anniversary is always a difficult act to live up to. And that precisely was the context of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recently concluded Washington trip. The first Indian head of government interaction with the Obama dispensation was held in the days before the first anniversary of the ghastly terrorist attacks on Mumbai, November 2008. When the political heads of the two largest democracies sit together during the run up to the Mumbai anniversary it is certain that key decisions would be articulated. The joint Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative (CCI) announced in Washington is the most obvious manifestation of this dialogue and discussion. The CCI aims at generating greater coordination between the security agencies of the two countries in counter-terrorism, information sharing and by building capabilities. This would imply greater collaboration between the two countries than has hitherto been known to exist. But after sifting through the chaff it becomes clear that greater than admitted levels of cooperation has existed between the two countries at least since the September 2001 terrorist attacks. What the CCI does is to give this existing cooperation an overt recognition. And then it enters the realms of expectations, where it is in the nature of democracies that the public will feel cheated when overt results don’t match the promises made. In the game of countering terror the surest mistake is the sanctity and certainty bestowed on such a promise.

The November 24th Singh – Obama joint statement followed the diplomatic principles of such events, as much of the text read as though it had been in the realms of public discourse for some time. But there were a few issues that appeared in the document and which could pose bigger problems than they could possibly seem to help. While there was a more than obvious reference to the pending Communications and Information System Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), the language pegged India to a couple of points that seem difficult to live down.

The passage of CISMOA would enable India to enter the restricted club of those countries with access to the higher levels of military technology that the United States has to offer. But for that to see the light of day the Ministry of Defense in India needs to clear more doubts than it has been able to thus far. The passage of the End User Agreement is a tale of how greater effort needs to be applied for the clearance of CISMOA.

The Clean Energy and Climate Change Initiative seems the most logical route for the two largest democracies to follow in making the word a less carbon dependent one than it currently is. But greater effort will be required in tackling pre-conceived notions about energy usage in the two countries. The entrenched ideas are, too entrenched, for simple homilies to overcome. Gas guzzling Americans and coal dependent Indians are the realities that need to be accepted for the reality that they are. Similarly, the reference to reform of the United Nations Security Council may be music to Indian ears, but it doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere. This reform is pegged within a regional/continental framework, and interests of the United States and India do not coalesce anywhere, but in homilies. The sooner Indians realize this reality, the lesser the pain when it becomes apparent that it is not happening in the manner envisioned and into the structure that had been dreamt.

 The joint statement has two additional points that make very interesting reading, for reasons of timing as well content. First, the cooperation on peacekeeping, especially given the lack of previous interaction in this vital field. The language reads very interventionist, what with development and promotion of essential human freedoms. The other point of interest was the inclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the manner with which it seemed to have been included in the text. Politically it does not inspire confidence. Something about the inclusion suggests tough times ahead. India has had tough times in the past, but it is its experience in handling the United States that will be coming in the near future.

Manvendra Singhwas a Member of Parliament in India from 2004-00, during which he was member of the Standing Committee on Defence and the Consultative Committee on External Affairs. He has also been a journalist with the Indian Express andThe Statesman.He is currently the editor of Defence & Security Alert, a monthly published from Delhi.