Thursday, January 22, 2015

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How Russia and the West can turn nuclear rivalry into cooperation

By Maurizio Martellini Paola Ceragioli

The nuclear rivalry between Russia and the West must not be allowed to escalate further. What’s needed is some sober thinking from both sides in three key areas: intermediate-range nuclear forces, tactical nuclear weapons, and possible cyber attacks against nuclear installations.

Some experts see the current state of Western-Russian relations as a new Cold War. However, this is a too simplistic schematization of the complex reality framing these relations. This is not to say that the rivalry between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic community is not increasing. Indeed, this rivalry poses a threat to the post-Cold War international security order and raises the perspective of the collapse of a number of strategic arms control agreements that have regulated the U.S.-Russia relationship during the last twenty years.

Pakistan - Analysis: Reko Diq’s billion-dollar mystery

THE dispute between Pakistan and Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) over the Reko Diq mines in Balochistan appears to be headed to an out-of-court settlement. Earlier, the Supreme Court, in an order passed in January 2013, had declared void the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement (CHEJVA) signed between the Balochistan government and Australian mining company BHP in 1993.
BHP later sold its stakes to a then unknown TCC, which ran the mine till the case started in 2008.
As the litigation continued, TCC also approached the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), initially citing breach of contract. However, the ICSID also denied its contention of mine ownership. The company then argued for loss of investments amounting to $400 million, and appears to have presented a case for a favourable verdict. However, it also appears willing to reach a compromise if allowed to maintain a stake in the lucrative venture.
Inside sources say the case is largely handled by the Balochistan government, which is said to be under pressure from the Centre to reach an out-of-court settlement. Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch denied this, after allegations by opposition parliamentarians accusing the government of giving in to TCC, saying he would not “sell a stone of Reko Diq”.
So what exactly is Reko Diq, a dusty little town located in Chagai — of nuclear-test fame — district? The Reko Diq mines have been the centre of much controversy since their discovery by BHP. CHEJVA, signed in 1993 by Balochistan’s then caretaker chief minister Naseer Mengal, granted exploration rights to BHP for the entire Chagai area. This was the start of a series of executive decisions that appear to have injured Pakistan’s interests.
The agreement gave BHP a 75 per cent share in discoveries made in the next 56 years over the 3.3 million acre area. The Balochistan government got a 25pc share on a joint-investment basis, and a mere 2pc royalty.
Subsequently, between 1993 and 1997, exploration marked out 14 potential sites containing 48 pockets for excavation, collectively called the Reko Diq complex.
BHP obtained licences for mineral exploration here, and almost immediately at a site called EL-5, clear gold and copper deposits were discovered after a shallow dig.
‘Highway robbery’
“This is when the international mining community got an idea of the potential of Reko Diq and moved quickly and quietly to put their own interests first,” said Naeem Awan, a Karachi-based former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislator, whose petitions related to the matter first brought the case to the SC’s notice. “What they have done since is highway robbery, while those who should be guarding Pakistan’s interests continue to look the other way.”
Geological literature and interviews with experts reveal that Chagai district is part of a belt called the Tethyan Magmatic Arc, which extends thousands of kilometres from Europe into Mongolia. The arc is a known reservoir for rare metals, and Pakistan’s share lies underneath the region between Chagai and North Waziristan.
Recent estimates by various geological organisations, including the US Geological Survey, put the value of the entire block between one to three trillion dollars. Some geologists contend that this is a low-end estimate as it does not take into account ‘rare earth’ materials essential to new fields such as nanotechnology and semiconductors.
Many questions
In this situation, and given the nearby location of the Saindak mines, there was a very high possibility of finding gold in Chagai district. Why, then, was a 25/75pc deal signed, while the precedent was a 50/50pc deal with the much-maligned Chinese in Saindak? More importantly, why was such a deal — signed by the unelected, interim Moeen Qureshi caretaker set-up — allowed to continue unquestioned till 2008? Further, it must be asked why no independent assessment has been done of the deposits in Reko Diq.
It also appears that TCC itself has something to hide.
The TCC website says Reko Diq’s “economically mineable portion” is “2.2 billion tons, with an average copper grade of 0.53pc and gold grade of 0.3 g/ton.” This means that approximately 10 million tons of copper and 13 million ounces of gold are available to be mined.
But another study by TCC geologists — published by the Society of Geologists in 2008 — says that the copper-gold deposit at Reko Diq “is world class and contains 18 million tons of copper and 32 million ounces of gold”. This means TCC is understating the copper deposits by eight million tons and the gold by 19 million ounces. Even this estimate makes it the tenth largest mine in the world. Experts believe a proper evaluation would take it to at least the number five rank in the list.
Why is this being done?
The answer lies in how BHP’s stake was taken over by Mincor Resources NL (one of the largest mining companies in the world) which set up TCC as a front. The company was later acquired by the Canadian-Israeli owned Barrick Gold (said to be the real power behind TCC), which also brought the Chilean Antofagasta to share the risk.
Barrick Gold is the largest mining firm in the world, and along with Antofagasta, controlled 75pc of Reko Diq till the SC stepped in.
Current estimates, which are considered quite conservative, say Reko Diq’s revenues should be $240-$260bn over a 40-year period. Pakistan’s share of this would potentially add nearly $1.5bn to national GDP.
However, TCC’s offer was $54bn over a 30-year period, including a clause to take all the raw gold and copper out of Pakistan “for refining purposes”.
With this background, suspicions are naturally created as to why Pakistan’s leadership is in such a hurry to sell what could be a major factor in alleviating the country’s economic woes.

Democracy index: Turkey regressing, sliding toward authoritarian regime

Turkey fell two places to the 98th spot on the 2014 Democracy Index compiled by the Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit, and it is sliding toward an authoritarian regime under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the report says.
According to the index, Turkey is continuing to drop in rankings and the deterioration in its score last year was outstripped by Libya and Thailand.
The report says, “Erdoğan's election as president in 2014 poses a new threat to Turkey's democratic institutions,” and added that the regression reflects the “continuing fraying of the social, political and institutional fabric as Turkey becomes steadily more polarized under the increasingly unchecked rule of Erdoğan.”
Pointing out that the Turkish Constitution necessitates that the president be “apolitical” and depicts the presidency as a “largely ceremonial role,” the report stresses that Turkey's president is “neither of these.”
The report states Turkey is a long way from the “authoritarian regime” category; however, it adds that the “current momentum in that direction is a cause for grave concern.”
Turkey is ranked 98 out of 167 countries, sharing its ranking with Lebanon, according to the report, which ranks countries according to election processes, pluralism, government functions, political participation, political cultures and fundamental freedoms. The countries are given scores on a 10-point scale, with “full democracies” scoring between eight and 10 and “authoritarian regimes” scoring below four.
Turkey's score, 5.7 -- categorizing it as a “hybrid regime,” comes before Kenya and after Venezuela.
While Turkey received a score of 5.12 in its electoral process and pluralism, it only scored 3.53 in civil liberties in 2014.
According to the report, Turkey's slide down the index is not much of a surprise, as the nationwide Gezi Park protests in 2013 and Erdoğan's onslaught against Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in 2014 indicated that democratic values were slipping in Turkey.
The report highlights that Erdoğan is consolidating his position as an “unrivalled political giant.” It stresses that, while doing so, he “repeatedly weakened the rule of law and fostered a corrosively majoritarian democratic culture.”
It says significant concerns regarding polarization in the country and the allocation of powers emerged after Erdoğan's election triumph in the August presidential elections, and provides two examples.
“The first of these [examples] was the polarizing tone of Mr Erdoğan's campaign, which explicitly relied on a rhetoric of ‘us' (his supporters) and ‘them' (everyone else), and which more subtly intimated that the latter group was, en masse, opposed not just to Mr Erdoğan and to his party, but to democracy itself,” the report said in reference to concerns that resulted from the August elections, adding that his narrative suggests that opposing him is to support coups and unaccountable “parallel” powers within the state.
The term “parallel state” was invented by Erdoğan to refer to sympathizers of the faith-based Gülen movement (Hizmet movement), whom he sees as responsible for the Dec. 17 graft probe which involved some ministers and their sons as well as businessmen and bureaucrats.
The report suggests that Erdoğan's campaign was based on whipping up fears of an imminent slide back into those darker days during the coup-eras and that it has needlessly “set back Turkey's prospects of becoming a more normally functioning democracy.”
The second concern raised by Erdoğan's election as president, the report says, is the “way in which it has driven a wedge between the formal and the actual allocation of powers in Turkey.”
According to the Economist's report, the question at stake when Erdoğan was elected president last summer was “whether to move Erdoğan to the presidency with his power undimmed, whether or not he subsequently succeeds in his stated aim of amending the constitution to change Turkey's political system to one with an executive presidency.”
“When a political community comes to understand that the power of the state rests with an individual, rather than with the office to which he or she has been elected, then that community is on a slippery slope as far as democratic norms are concerned,” the report concludes.

Radical face of Saudi Wahhabism


The agenda of the Islamic State today is merely an extension of the devious plan laid down by Abdul Wahhab almost two hundred years ago

It is ironical indeed that the Turkish regime today is implicated in propping up a terrorist group called the Islamic State (IS), which has vowed to spread Wahhabi Islam all over the world. The present Wahhabism, legitimated and empowered by the Saudi regime, has violent, almost criminal, origins in the 19th century. If we care to look into its beginnings, we won’t be surprised at its utter contempt for human life and everything else which doesn’t conform to its own narrow/sectarian agenda. Let me explain the irony first.
It was the Ottoman regime which bore the brunt of Wahhabi Islam soon after it became a force in the Central Arab region. The toxic combine of 18th century Islamic scholar Abdul Wahhab and the first monarch of Saudi Arabia Ibn Saud posed a challenge to the Ottoman rule. They also questioned the prevalent Islamic beliefs and practices. The Turks not only defended their power but also assiduously fought for the mystic Islam they had professed and supported all these years. The Ottomans fought and exiled the Wahhabis to the Arab deserts where they remained for almost a century. This Wahhabi bigotry was condemned by the Turks as criminal and unIslamic. The sad irony is that the current Turkish regime has joined the Wahhabi bandwagon, forgetting all about the Bektashis, Qadiris and other dervishes they had cherished all these centuries. The IS agenda today is merely an extension of the devious plan laid down by Abdul Wahhab almost 200 years ago. Let us look at this so-called puritan Islam proposed by the Wahhabis, its violent ‘othering’ of Muslims they disliked and the parallels with the present day IS terrorists.
Hate-filled agenda
Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, and his radical, exclusionist puritanism became deadlier when Ibn Saud decided to add its religious fervour to his banditry. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader amongst many of continually fighting and raiding Bedouin tribes in the desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.) Thus Abdul Wahhab, in collaboration with Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, laid down its sectarian and hate-filled agenda. He denounced his opponents and all Muslims unwilling to accept his views as idolaters and apostates, and abused the prophets, scholars, saints and other pious figures of the past. All those who did not adhere to his proposed version of Islam were to be killed; their wives and daughters violated. Shias, Sufis, and other Muslims whom he judged unorthodox were to be exterminated, and all other faiths to be humiliated or destroyed. With this awful doctrine, the foundation was laid for Islamic fundamentalism, leading ultimately to terrorism, vitiating the lives of not only Muslims but everyone else in the world.
Most of the so-called Islamic terrorist groups today are inspired by this devious political ideology. Saudi money and power has succeeded in mainstreaming this hate-filled conning of Islam as the true, puritan Islam, where any deviation is dubbed as unIslamic. Unfortunately, most Western writers on Islam took Wahhabi claims to represent reform against the alleged decadence of traditional Islam at face value. American journalist Stephen Schwartz says that the Wahhabi rejection of ostentatious spirituality is much the same as the Protestants detesting the veneration of saints in the Roman Church. Western observers have seen the movement as analogous with Christian Reformation. Sadly, they have failed to make a distinction between reform and bigotry.
IS and other terrorist groups today have taken the original Wahhabi perversion to even greater heights where they don’t even refer to their roots. The Saudi regime itself feels threatened by the monster their ideology helped create. They have publicly distanced themselves from IS terrorism and even used the chief cleric of Mecca to declare IS terrorism a heinous crime under sharia law. This is one consistent duplicity which the Saudis have pursued whenever they found themselves stuck in a tight spot.
However, the stark parallels between IS and its ilk and the Saudi-Wahhabi travesty are telling. If IS is detonating shrines, it is following the precedent set in the 1920s by the House of Saud with the Wahhabi-inspired demolition of 1,400-year-old tombs in the Jannat ul Baqi cemetery in Medina. Again, the hatred for the Shia Muslims is one of the core beliefs of the Wahhabis. The earliest destructions and killings they carried out were in Karbala in the early 19th century, which was followed by the looting and wrecking of the tomb of Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet. Whatever be the face, bile against the Shias has remained a constant throughout Wahhabi-Saudi history, which is being carried forward by its latest flag bearers, the IS and Al Qaeda.
Wahhabism’s reinvention
Why did hydra-headed Wahhabism become so menacingly active during the past few decades? One factor may be the Iranian Revolution of the 1970s, which was perceived as a threat by Wahhabism that had begun to look dated by then. It, therefore, had to reinvent itself to remain relevant. This reinvention had deadly manifestations such as the Boko Haram, the Al Shabab, the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and now the IS, and many others all over the world. Even Shia Islam changed radically in the post Ayatollah Khomeini era; it is no more as relaxed as it used to be.
The Saudi and Qatari regimes seem to have realised that they have created a monster in ISIS, which is now a threat to their own peaceful existence. Though IS remains deeply Wahhabist, it is ultra radical and “could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.” Today, a collective military action seems to be the only way to check the IS menace, but a lasting peace in the Islamic world is possible only if a battle is waged within Islam to change the mindset. Besides we need to look beyond the usual Islamophobic and Islamophilic perspectives.

Saudis should end all plans to inflict physical torture upon blogger Raif Badawi

A blogger in Saudi Arabia who was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes received his first 50 lashes by cane in a public square a little more than a week ago. His second round of lashing, scheduled for last Friday, was postponed after a doctor found that he had yet to heal from the first.
The cruel, retrograde punishment of Raif Badawi has drawn worldwide condemnation, and Amnesty International has deemed him a prisoner of conscience and called for his release. Badawi's “crime” was operating a now defunct blog, the Free Saudi Liberal Network, which fostered political and social debate over Islam and liberalism.
Badawi wrote about whether those two concepts were compatible, critiqued the religious police and ran posts by others critical of Saudi institutions. That initially got him jailed and charged in 2012 with apostasy — renunciation of his religion — which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. In 2013, he was found guilty of the lesser charges of insulting Islam and violating the information technology laws; on appeal, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
The right to freedom of expression is not some peculiar American obsession. It is a universal human right, and those who exercise it should neither be killed by terrorists nor imprisoned by their governments. It's especially hypocritical for Saudi officials, who publicly condemned the acts of violence in Paris against the Charlie Hebdo staff, to condone the brutal beating of a citizen for freely expressing his opinions. (Of course, Saudi Arabia wasn't the only country to condemn the events in France despite a poor record on freedom of speech. Egypt, Turkey and Russia all sent officials to the Paris march.)
Not only is Badawi's punishment utterly disproportionate to his crime, but his crime shouldn't even be considered a crime. The Saudis should immediately end all plans to inflict physical torture upon Badawi.

Saudi Arabia: Doctors find Raif Badawi unfit for flogging on health grounds second week in a row

The planned flogging of Raif Badawi is likely to be suspended this Friday after a medical committee assessed that he should not undergo a second round of lashes on health grounds. The committee, comprised of around eight doctors, carried out a series of tests on Raif Badawi at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah yesterday and recommended that the flogging should not be carried out.
"Instead of continuing to torment Raif Badawi by dragging out his ordeal with repeated assessments the authorities should publicly announce an end to his flogging and release him immediately and unconditionally," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"Raif Badawi is still at risk, there is no way of knowing whether the Saudi Arabian authorities will disregard the medical advice and allow the flogging to go ahead."

Video - Egyptian Belly Dance: Punta del Este to the feet of Faiza Al Manzur

The presidency after Obama: Is Hillary Clinton on her way to the White House?

Video - Obama talks about childcare plan at University of Kansas in Lawrence

Video - Obama visits University Of Kansas

President Obama pushes economic policy in speech at University of Kansas

President Barack Obama returned to the state of Kansas on Wednesday in advance of a speech designed to push economic plans laid out in his State of the Union address this week. 
This is President Obama's first trip to Kansas since 2011. 
The President landed at Forbes Field in Topeka just after 7:30 p.m., and he was met by a small delegation including Topeka's mayor and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. 
The President mentioned his roots in the state (his mother was born in Wichita) and joked with Gov. Brownback about Jayhawks basketball. 
"I just said, he said he's gonna see Bill Self tomorrow, and I said well are they gonna sign you up? Are you gonna shoot some with them?" Gov. Brownback said. "He says nah. And I said well, we could use an extra few shooters here."
In a gaggle with reporters aboard Air Force One en route from Idaho, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it was "no coincidence" that President Obama was traveling to two red states to sell his economic plans. 
"I think the President does wants this to serve as a pretty useful illustration that there are some common-sense things where Democrats and Republicans can put aside our differences and actually focus on cooperating around issues that are most important," Earnest said. 
Gov. Brownback said that while he "didn't agree with a lot" of what the President laid out in the State of the Union, he was open to working with him on pocketbook issues. 
"I'd be delighted to talk with him about what he sees in similarity of approaches or things that could work together," Gov. Brownback said. "I certainly think we could get a lot better on tax policy federally in a way that could help us to grow in this state.”

No Obama-Netanyahu Meeting During March Visit to US

The White House says U.S. President Barack Obama will not meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli leader visits Washington in early March to speak to a joint session of Congress.
A National Security Council spokeswoman said Thursday that as a "matter of long-standing practice and principle," the president does not meet with “heads of state or candidates” in close proximity to their elections.

Netanyahu is set to be in the U.S. capital March 3, two weeks ahead of his re-election bid in Israel.
The White House statement came a day after Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, blindsided the Obama administration by inviting Netanyahu without first consulting the White House.

Boehner said he had invited the Israeli leader to address Congress to talk about the "grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life.”
The White House has called the invitation a breach of normal protocol.
Numerous Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats, are seeking to pass legislation tightening U.S. sanctions against Tehran that would be aimed at forcing Iran to abandon any effort to build a nuclear arsenal.  Netanyahu has voiced fears that the U.S. and five other world powers will make too many concessions to Tehran in their current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Obama opposes further sanctions against Tehran while the talks are ongoing.  He told lawmakers in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that if Congress approves the new restrictions, he will veto them.

The next round of nuclear talks is scheduled for February.  
In a statement, Netanyahu said he was "honored to accept the invitation" and that would use the speech "to thank President Barack Obama, Congress and the American people for their support of Israel.”
It would be Netanyahu’s third address to the U.S. Congress.

Pashto Music Video - Naghma - soola aman نغمه مونږ کوترې یو د سولې

Another senior Pakistani Army General visits Afghanistan

Another senior Pakistani Army General visited Afghanistan on Thursday amid frequent visits by Pakistani security officials following a deadly school attack in December last year.
At least 141 people mostly school children were killed after a group of Pakistani Taliban militants launched coordinated attack on Peshawar school.
According to reports, Pakistan Army Commander Southern Lt General Nasir Khan Janjua met with his Afghan counterpart and discussed matters of mutual interest.
Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the military leaders discussed the Pakistan-Afghanistan security situation.
ISPR also added that the leaders deliberated over the recommendation about improving the border security.
This comes as the Corps Commander Peshawar Lt General Hidayat ur Rahman visited Afghanistan on 18 January to meet with the Afghan officials, while Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Chief Gen. Rizwan Akhtar visited Kabul on 11th January to meet with Afghan officials including President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
According to the ISPR the recent visits by top Pakistani military leaders are aimed at etter the coordination between militaries of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Why Obama's India Republic Day visit is significant

The most significant aspect of the US President, Barack Obama's upcoming summit with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is that Mr Obama will be the chief guest at India's Republic Day celebrations.
This is the first time that a US head of state will be given this honour by India and reflects, more than anything else, the degree of comfort that Delhi has in its relations with Washington.
India, traditionally, has invited its Republic Day guests who will not attract controversy at home and come from countries with whom it has close strategic relations.
Thus the heads of neither Pakistan nor China have been invited on the first count. While no Latin American leaders have ever come for the second reason.
It says something about how difficult Indo-US relations have been that it has taken over seven decades for Delhi to invite the US president to participate in a ceremony marking its emergence as a full-fledged constitutional democracy.
While there is much focus on what diplomats call the "deliverables" - substantive agreements and deals - that will emerge from the meeting, the likelihood is that the symbolism will be much greater than the substance on this visit.
Mr Obama and Mr Modi held a fruitful summit in September last year and the present invitation was extended seemingly on the spur of the moment by Mr Modi when the two met on sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Myanmar (Burma) last November.
This has meant, officials on both sides admit, relatively little time to put together a substantial agenda.
A better measure of the Republic Day summit's agenda will be the areas the bilateral talks will focus on - defence, energy and counter-terrorism.
These are all in the sensitive zone of most governments and the depth of the discussion in each of these underlines how close the two countries have become.
Contending interests
In defence, the spearhead of the relationship is less the business of selling and buying arms than attempts by India and the US to jointly develop and produce a new generation of weaponry.
This idea has been kicked around for several years between the two countries, struggling to overcome political and bureaucratic resistance within both capitals.
The expectation is that at least one, if not more, such deals will be signed later this month.
A few dozen possible technologies and weapon systems have been offered by the US.
India is particularly interested in drones, carrier technology and so on that enhance its ability to project its air and naval power.
In energy, the two governments are looking at contending interests - improving the supply of fossil fuels and inhibiting climate change.
Mr Modi and Mr Obama are relatively unusual among world leaders in their personal belief that global warming is an issue of overriding importance.
The US has thus been a strong supporter - though with some commercial opportunities in mind - of the Indian government's ambitious plans for renewable energy, especially solar. The September Indo-US summit was shot through with green energy.
Mr Obama would like Mr Modi to give binding commitments on India's carbon emissions, even ones as broad as the ones China agreed to recently.
But India has a troubled fossil fuel dependent power generation sector. It is looking increasingly to the US for inexpensive natural gas - and has been pushing for a long-term commitment by Washington to allow such imports.
The US, in return, will continue to push India to change a flawed nuclear liability law that makes it difficult for the US and other countries to sell reactors to an energy-starved India.
Neither issue is likely to be resolved during this summit, though there may be discussion to that effect.
Intelligence sharing
Counter-terrorism is a particularly good measure of the strength of relations for two reasons.
One, India continues to be wary of the degree of intelligence cooperation between the US to India's regional rival, Pakistan. The more Indian and US intelligence agencies work together, the less important the shadow of Pakistan becomes to bilateral relations.
By all accounts, India and US already enjoy a very high level of intelligence sharing on terrorism.
Notably, when European governments were complaining about revelations of widespread electronic surveillance by the US National Security Agency, a terrorism-wary India reportedly asked the NSA to step up its eavesdropping activities.
An area where the two sides are working more closely together, however, is cybersecurity.
An ever more connected India is becoming more conscious of its vulnerabilities in this area and understands the need for international support.
However, the spectacle that will accompany the Republic Day summit will obscure the weakness of shared big strategic thinking between the two countries.
The two leaders are extremely focused on domestic concerns, seeing foreign policy as a sideshow to the economic and social agenda they have for their own countries.
The two are on opposite sides when it comes to the US policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But they are increasingly on the same page when it comes to East Asia and China.
When Mr Obama takes the salute of marching Indian soldiers, these will not be at the forefront of the summit agenda.
The symbolism of the event will undermine the other side of the geopolitical coin: differences between India and the US pale in comparison to what brings them together.

Obama to visit India amid warming US-India relations

By Gabriel Domínguez

Barack Obama is set to become the first US president to be chief guest at India's Republic Day Parade, a sign of expanding ties between the world's two largest democracies despite a host of thorny issues. DW examines.
USA Obama Asien Reise Abfahrt
Tanks, missiles, thousands of soldiers and common people are set to line the streets of India's capital New Delhi as the nation celebrates the enactment of its constitution back on January 26, 1950. Witnessing the festivities alongside Indian PM Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee will be the guest of honor, US President Barack Obama, who is set to visit India from January 25 to 27.
The massive parade is designed to showcase India's military prowess as well cultural and social heritage. But amid the political symbolism, Obama's participation in the event sends out a clear message: US-India relations are on an upward trajectory and have proceeded far more smoothly than many imagined under PM Modi.
While Obama's exact itinerary is still being worked out, the White House has expressed interest in his visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal. He will spend much time, however, in New Delhi. There is a great deal of symbolism attached to this visit since this is the first time a sitting US president will have visited India twice as well as been the chief guest for Republic Day.
Indien Nationalfeiertag 26.Januar 2014 Soldaten
India's Republic Day Parade showcases the country's military prowess as well cultural and social heritage
"The President had many good reasons to turn down Prime Minister Modi's invitation, but he chose to accept. The upcoming trip therefore automatically elevates India's stature in Washington," Milan Vaishnav, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told DW.
In the past five years, bilateral relations had somewhat stagnated, resulting in a number of high-profile disagreements between the two nations. For instance, the United States gave priority to relations with China and Pakistan, two countries with which India has had adversarial relations, while India sought to diversify its relations with major countries and keep some distance from the United States.
Closer to the US than to China
But as analyst Dhruva Jaishankar told DW, the relationship has somewhat changed since Modi, a Hindu nationalist, was elected PM in a landslide victory last May. The South Asia specialist at the German Marshall Fund of the United States said that the Indian leader speaks in stark terms about closer collaboration between the two democracies. Furthermore, Modi's relations with the US have progressed more smoothly than, for instance, those with Russia and neighboring China, Jaishankar pointed out.
Moreover, Modi's visit to the United States last September was widely viewed as a major public relations success, resetting bilateral relations, and the invitation to Obama to attend India's Republic Day parade "breaks new ground," said Jaishankar. It also shows that Modi has moved beyond the fact that he was denied a US visa in 2005, three years after communal riots claimed the lives of over 1,000 people (mostly Muslims) in the western state of Gujarat where he was Chief Minister.
Indischer Premier Modi mit US-Präsident Obama in Washington 30.09.2014
Analysts say US-India relations have been on an upward trajectory ever since PM Modi (right) took office
R&D centers in India
In terms of commerce, the relationship has improved significantly in recent years, with trade in goods and services between the two countries rising from just 18 billion USD in 2001 to 93 billion USD by 2012, notably helped by very rapid growth in bilateral trade in services, which reached 30 billion USD by 2012.
Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific Chief Economist at the analytics firm IHS, explains that large US multinationals have substantially expanded their presence in India over the last decade, in sectors such as manufacturing as well as IT and business process outsourcing.
"There has also been a significant trend for US multinationals to establish R&D centers in India, drawing on the large talent pools of highly skilled Indian graduates," said Biswas. For US firms, India represents a major long-term growth market due to its large population and rapid growth of middle class consumer spending.
Obama's agenda
Against this backdrop, expectations are high on both sides that concrete deliverables will emerge from Obama's three-day visit to the South Asian nation. "The US president has four overarching issues on his agenda with regard to India: economics, defense, civil nuclear cooperation, and energy and climate change," said Vaishnav.
Among the main issues will be military cooperation and the signing of a new ten-year bilateral Indo-US defense framework agreement which expires in mid-2015. In terms of civil nuclear cooperation, the US is trying to find a solution regarding India's nuclear laws, which create liabilities for suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident, and have become a barrier to international nuclear energy firms undertaking projects in India.
Climate change is another key area, with analysts expecting a compromise before the Paris climate summit later this year. "There are expectations of a US-India deal under which New Delhi could agree to reduce carbon emissions and substantially increase the share of clean energy in its total energy mix by 2030, through the increased use of solar and wind power," said Biswas.
Modi Rede in Madison Square Garden 28.09.2014 New York
Modi's US visit last September was widely viewed as a major public relations success
What does India want?
PM Modi has given a high priority to attracting US foreign investment into India, and he met with CEOs of leading American multinationals during his visit to the US to encourage greater investment inflows. "The Modi government, through its 'Make in India' scheme, is eager to revive domestic defense manufacturing - another place where US companies and technology could be quite valuable," said Vaishnav.
But the India analyst also points to some contentious issues set to feature in the discussions between the two leaders, such as India's attempt to secure shale gas exports from the US. "Such exports are restricted to countries with which the US has a Free Trade Agreement, a list on which India does not figure. The Indians are seeking a permanent exception to this," he said.
Finally, there is the issue of regional politics. New Delhi remains concerned about the potential for instability in Afghanistan following the drawdown of US troops. Vaishnav believes New Delhi will want reassurances that the Americans are not going to simply walk away. But he also points out that, from New Delhi's perspective, no discussion on Afghanistan can take place with Pakistan being a part of the conversation.
But why not? The analyst explains that Indian officials are worried that recent US statements and actions on Pakistan are indicative of warming in US-Pakistan relations - a development that does not sit well with the Indian establishment which remains skeptical of how much Pakistan's defense-intelligence establishment has changed in its approach to violent jihadist groups.
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Symbolism vs substance
Experts are of the view that the future of US-India ties looks quite positive. They argue that while many of the irritants in the relationship - whether it be trade, intellectual property, immigration - have not gone away, there seems to be a renewed willingness on both sides to forge ahead and work through the thorny issues.
US President Barack Obama's upcoming visit seems to highlight the spirit of this stronger, renewed friendship. However, as Carnegie expert Vaishnav points out, "While rhetorically and symbolically, both sides have made a series of important gestures, symbolism will soon have to be matched by substance, as tackling the outstanding issues will be a tough, hard slog."