Republicans are friends of India and Democrats are friends of Pakistan, is the conventional wisdom in India. It seems that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington will be Singh's attempt to understand to what degree this conventional wisdom still holds.
America and India share a widespread relationship. It spans across outsourcing and immigration law, nuclear technology, climate change, defense, counter terrorism and Afghanistan.
George W. Bush passed the Indo-U.S. Nuclear deal in his last few days as president, and one of the first things President Barack Obama did was to restrict outsourcing and immigrant employees. Later, he raised eyebrows in India with his recent visit to China.
Today, there is a very strong perception in India that President Obama is more concerned with the U.S.' relationship with China and Pakistan than it is with India. And his recent actions give Indians good reason.
But this state visit seems as if the United States wants a much closer relationship with India, than many Indians think.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "this is a very important relationship with a very important country that we have in the world, that's why India was chosen to be the first visit." The size of the reception is so large that a tent has been erected on the White House lawn to host the Prime Minister.
Both U.S. and India has a lot to gain with a good relationship.
Climate change is important for both countries as India - a largely agricultural economy - depends heavily on the monsoons that are becoming increasingly unpredictable. On the anniversary of the attacks on Mumbai, there is a common and very urgent need to partner in counter terrorism activities, not the least important of which is the war in Afghanistan. In a recent address at the U.S.-India Business Council, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We have a common interest in creating a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, where India is already providing $1.2 billion in assistance to facilitate reconstruction efforts."
The U.S. also stands to gain extensively from India's growing defense budget, which so far has been going almost entirely to Russia and France.
From a public diplomacy point of view, a shift of power from Europe to Asia is evident and much spoken about. President Obama will require good relations with India to balance the China's power.
Also with respect to Afghanistan - most of the money and weapons given to Pakistan to fight Taliban seems to have been spent on defending its southern border with India. For the U.S. to get more bang for its buck, it will have to convince India to withdraw some military pressure on Pakistan - quite a challenge given the mood in India towards its neighbor.
This week is Obama's opportunity to win over the trust of Indians, and if it goes well, it seems as if India is well poised to even duplicate Britain as America's "special relationship" with the East.