T P Sreenivasan, India’s deputy ambassador to the US between 1997 and 2000, recalled Modi’s role when he was sent to meet IMF and World Bank officials by then Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee after the 1998 nuclear tests.
By: Shubham Ghosh
India and the US are poised for a “better relationship” under prime minister Narendra Modi, thanks to his tremendous sense of his country’s national interests and the posture to be taken vis-a-vis Washington since his days as a senior functionary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a former senior Indian diplomat has said.
The remarks by T P Sreenivasan, who was India’s deputy ambassador to the US between 1997 and 2000 and when India conducted the nuclear tests in 1998 and the US slapped sanctions on the country, came ahead of Modi’s state visit to the US on June 22.
The Indian leader will embark on his first state visit to the US at the invitation of president Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
The Bidens will also host Modi at a state dinner.
Referring to the recent interaction between Modi and Biden in Hiroshima, Japan, on the sidelines of the recently held G7 summit, the diplomat said much better days are ahead in the relationship.
“From what we have seen in Hiroshima, they had a good equation. And it looks as though they’re poised for a better relationship,” Sreenivasan said.
He said three factors — China, the Ukraine-Russia situation and the US reports about minorities in India — are affecting bilateral ties.
India has been maintaining that the Ukraine crisis must be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.
The two nations have a difference of opinion on US reports on minorities in India.
“These three have, I wouldn’t say sour the relationship, but they are affecting the relationship and that is where they have to sit down and talk and come to understand,” Sreenivasan said.
India’s internal situation, he asserted, should not be a factor in the Indo-US relationship.
“They have to play down the internal situation in India. And secondly, on Russia and Ukraine….there should be a better understanding between the United States and India. So, if that war is ended partly because of the effort of India as G20 (president), that will make a big difference,” he said.
Lavishing praise on Modi, he said since his days as a BJP functionary he had a tremendous sense of what the country’s national interests are and what its posture should be with the US.
Modi, then a senior BJP functionary, he recollected, was quietly sent by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for meeting officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, amidst strong speculation that the two institutions were planning to slap sanctions on India after it conducted the nuclear tests.
Even at that time, he had a deep understanding of the India-US relationship, said the former diplomat on Monday (22).
“He came, when he was nobody, except a pracharak (functionary) in 1999,” Sreenivasan recalled.
“Well, I think the (then) prime minister sent him here for a specific mission because there were rumours that the World Bank and the IMF will also impose sanctions against India. That was a scare because for us it is very important. The United States and India have no aid programme or anything like that. But the IMF and the World Bank, getting into it would’ve been a serious complication with us. That was the mission he had,” said Sreenivasan.
“So, he (Modi) met me when he came the first day. He called me and I did not know much about him. But when I talked to him, I realised he is a different kind of person. I invited him to dinner that night and we talked about the World Bank, and he said, arrange lunch for me, dinner for me with the World Bank people. And they (World Bank people) came. (It) was a surprise for me,” Sreenivasan said, recollecting the events of those days.
“Since then, I’ve been watching him, and I think he has a tremendous sense of what is in India’s interest and posture (India) should be with the United States. That is his specialisation,” Sreenivasan said. “So he may have played a big role (in India-US relationship)… in 2016 when he talked about the new symphony in India-US relationship, close defence partners. These are all things that are really remarkable,” Sreenivasan added.
(With PTI inputs)