Amidst the ritual and protocol of President's Obama's first White House dinner, the theme could not have been more clear: cooperation and shared responsibility. The star studded gala affair did much more than just offer an unbelievable soiree; it tackled one central challenge of the 21st century: global cooperation. The four day visits to the US by Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted by the Obama administration was about 'strategic partnership' and strengthening alliances. The state dinner comes at an ideal time when both countries have common interests, to spread democracy, economic growth, free markets and fight terrorism.
The high profile dinner was a global acknowledgment to the mutual advantage of partnership. With both countries at the helm to bolster international principles, East and West are now safely covered. It's obvious the distribution of power is changing international behavior. The US cannot claim supremacy with China and India on its heels. India sees herself as a rising star; she has emerged as a responsible nuclear power as well as lucrative market for goods and services globally. She has successfully deterred the economic crisis facing the US and understands her position in the world today. Much of her behavior shift is from the rise of the 300 million strong middle class. It's questionable to call India a 3rd world country when it operates in 1st world mentality.
Judging from the attendees at the White House State dinner, the Obama administration has a clear understanding that the socio-economic background of South Asians in the US is also changing the landscape of relationship globally. Indians in India may have been watching the state dinner with renewed interest because PM Singh was honored but American Indians were also at the edge of their seats, glad to finally be represented and supported. The ties American Indians still have to India, either by culture or family can offer a resource by virtue of stronger bilateral agreements. With stronger bilateral diplomacy, exchange of technology, goods and money will be more exploitable, benefiting both countries. Perhaps the Obama administration will present more options and relax restrictions which they execute through the WTO so there can be stronger bilateral agreements. We have already seen these benefits as numerous US companies move their call centers and technology centers to India. It remains to be seen if Indian citizens can gain the same access the US has enjoyed for years now.
India holds high importance to US because of its position in Asia politics. India is uniquely positioned to act as an important ally in US-Asia relations. The emergence of China as a major power in the world stage has not been welcomed with open arms by the US. At the same time, the US needs the economic security China provides, creating an interesting unbalanced relationship. The US-India relationship allows both countries some protection from the potential rise of China to an unmanageable superpower status.
Shared responsibility could also meet the challenge of terrorism prevention and human security. With Pakistan standing as a major nuclear threat and Afghanistan shrouded in instability, stronger ties among the US and India could allow for collective advocacy of International laws (as small as they may be). Most countries seem to fear dissolutions in trade and economic sanctions more than international law. At the same time increased trade and economic vitality is also how a country builds its arsenal to boost domestic satisfaction.
The benefits of working together responsibly, sharing burdens and forging a peaceful path for all people is not a utopian ideal. It's exactly what can be achieved if there is common goal. The state dinner was a monument of change, held outside on the South lawn of the White House, a symbol of change in these times. Hosting Indian PM Singh and serving an Indian menu, was another symbol of change. It seems so many things have changed -- thankfully I say, a change for the better. Perhaps even more exciting is the mutual recognition of US and India to embrace a new era of cooperation for long term mutual gain. The record of success and contributions are often underappreciated. Here I offer my toast to a stronger alliance between India and the US and appreciate the collective goal to make both countries better.