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Thanks, Obama! (And Bush, and Modi)

Walter Russell Mead

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wrapping up his state visit in Washington, and when he returns to India he will be bringing home some serious bacon: a nuclear deal that promises construction of six new nuclear reactors. The WSJ reports:

Under the new atomic-power agreement, Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Westinghouse Electric Co., a U.S. unit of Toshiba Corp., will begin engineering and site-design work for the reactors, though the final contract won’t be completed until June 2017, White House officials said. The deal marked a significant step in resolving obstacles to the sale of nuclear reactors and fuel to India.

“Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, the leaders welcomed the start of preparatory work on-site in India for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse and noted the intention of India and the U.S. Export-Import Bank to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project,” the White House said in a statement.

This news speaks to a similarity between Bush and Obama: both had Middle East policies that went badly wrong, both saw a weakening of the transatlantic alliance—but both got India right.

Moving forward on this important relationship is and needs to be a major component of American foreign policy, and Obama, like his predecessor, has steadily and patiently worked to advance the U.S.-India relationship. Today’s deal fulfills the promise of the 2008 deal that the Bush administration, with Democratic support, got through Congress in a difficult year. Obama also has been able to insulate the India relationship from partisanship, and the GOP has helped.

This, for younger readers who may not have seen many other examples, is how the American system is supposed to work. Better U.S.-India relations are good for the U.S. economy, good for stabilizing the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region, good for countering terrorism, good for democracy, and good for helping to persuade China that the path of international confrontation ultimately won’t work. It is the result of efforts—dating back to the Clinton years—of diplomats, military officials, legislators and Presidents of both parties, liberal and conservative, who have seen the important national interests bound up in U.S.-India relations and have worked to build ties. It hasn’t always been easy; India is not the easiest partner to work with sometimes, and there have been lots of difficulties to surmount and costs to pay.

Nevertheless, President Obama, the State Department, and the many people from both parties who have worked to get us to this point for many years deserve the thanks of the nation and the world. At a time when bad news for Pax Americana seems to be coming thick and fast, here at least is something good.

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