Modi, Obama deepen India-US alliance

Modi, Obama deepen India-US alliance

By THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | 26 September, 2015

Perhaps by coincidence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shared media attention in the US during his present visit with China's President Xi Jinping, who is on a state visit similar to that undertaken last year by the PM, who is expected to meet President Obama for a bilateral meeting in New York on 28 September. The two friends will have much to discuss in the matter of developments in China, as Washington and New Delhi are drawing ever closer to each other on matters that are commercial as well as security-related. In both fields, China looms large in the radar of the world's two biggest democracies. It is no secret that US officials have been unhappy with China because of frequent hacking attacks on computer systems installed in key locations, although the revelations made by Edward Snowden about US prowess in the field of illegal hacking have taken away any exhibition of moral superiority over Beijing. India too is a victim of such hacking, but the answer needs to be different from the reflexive decisions taken by our security agencies, whose only cure for a headache seems to be to chop the head off. Police methods honed and perfected by the British in the 1920s still form the template used by much of the present force, which is why this country has become a maze of prohibitions and regulations that modern conditions have rendered unenforceable, such as the (fortunately abandoned) effort to make hundreds of millions of internet users save each chat message for 90 days or face penal consequences. Such official efforts at hyper-regulation have made India's officialdom a global laughing stock, and do not help PM Modi in his efforts at ensuring that India fully enter the digital age within the present decade. Hopefully, our security agencies will pick up a few cues designed to modernise their behaviour and mindset during the frequent visits made to London, Washington and other capitals by top officials of the relevant agencies. India and the US need to work closely together to ensure cyber-security in both countries, as in future warfare, including of the economic kind, it is from such a battlefront that major problems can erupt. A cyber attack has the potential to cripple transport and energy systems, besides the seamless communication essential in the conduct of business. Interestingly, whether it be Satya Nadella at Microsoft or Sundar Pichai at Google, PM Modi will get to see firsthand the keystone role being played by those of Indian origin in the US. As for why there is not yet an Indian Microsoft or Google, the reason is clear. The cause is the way in which official agencies choke innovation in India through hyper-controls. Too much policy is still being made by the bureaucracy, and too much of that is dictated not by national interest but by the eagerness to get a larger and larger amount as bribe. The more the regulation and the more onerous the prescribed punishment, the higher the bribe. The baleful effect of such measures is being seen in the (SIT-determined) black money law, which the SIT has made so draconian that the amount thus far collected through declarations has been derisory. Had the terms offered been more generous, the response would have been far higher. If P. Chidambaram could collect Rs 50,000 crore in 1997 through his amnesty scheme for black money, why only Rs 500 crore and not Rs 500,000 crore has so far been collected in 2015 is a matter which needs to be rectified through amendments in the law designed to pull in greater volumes of money. It is India's youth and the economy that are the biggest reasons why the world is so interested in this country, and of course PM Modi's Gujarat-based reputation as a skilled creator of prosperity. Together with his friend Barack, Narendra Modi needs to create new pathways for India-US cooperation as would enable him to raise the annual rate of growth to the double digit figure needed for social stability.

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