September 26, 2014

CNAS Press Note: Key Issues for Indian Prime Minister Modi's U.S. Visit

By Richard Fontaine

Washington, September 26 – Center for a New American Security (CNAS) President Richard Fontaine has prepared a press note in anticipation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrival today in New York for a five-day visit to the United States. Following an address in Madison Square Garden and meetings on Wall Street, Modi will travel to Washington for meetings on September 29-30 with President Obama and on Capitol Hill. His trip represents an opportunity for the United States and India to reenergize their strategic partnership after a period of stagnation.

Modi’s visit will focus policy and media attention on several issues, including:

  1. Personal Diplomacy. It is somewhat ironic that the prospect of renewed bilateral ties now turns on Modi’s election, as the United States barred entry to the then-Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2005, citing his role in deadly Hindu-Muslim riots three years before. It was not until February 2014 that the American ambassador met with him for the first time. In welcoming him to the White House, the Obama administration will signal that a new era has begun.
  2. The Strategic Case for Close Relations. Speeches by both American and Indian leaders are routinely filled with bromides about the natural affinities between the “world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy.” It will be key for Obama and Modi to articulate an interests-based case for ties between India and the U.S., in addition to the values they share. For analysis of those interests and an agenda for deepening bilateral relations, please see CNAS President Richard Fontaine’s recent policy brief, “Seizing the Modi Moment.”
  3. Deliverables. There will not be large “deliverables” akin to the civil nuclear accord or U.S. endorsement of India’s UN Security Council membership.
 Yet more modest progress on defense (including contracts and a commitment to renew the Defense Framework Agreement) and economic issues (such as a breakthrough on WTO trade facilitation talks or a date certain by which to conclude a Bilateral Investment Treaty) would set the stage for future progress.
  4. The U.S. and India in the Region. India and the United States share a similar approach to China, seeking close economic ties and cordial diplomatic relations while hedging their bets by enhancing security ties with regional powers – including each other. Indian officials worry about the Afghanistan endgame following an American withdrawal and both Washington and New Delhi remain concerned about Pakistan. Look for dialogue on these regional issues, and possibly hints of greater trilateral cooperation with Japan or quadrilateral cooperation that also includes Australia.

CNAS has a number of experts available for interviews on Modi’s visit, including:

To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at, or call 202-457-9409.


  • Richard Fontaine

    Chief Executive Officer

    Richard Fontaine is the Chief Executive Officer of CNAS. He served as President of CNAS from 2012–19 and as Senior Fellow from 2009–12. Prior to CNAS, he was foreign policy ad...