When Barack Obama visited India:
The year started with US President Barack Obama's visit to India wherein he attended the annual Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26. By this he not only became the first American President to attend the top Indian parade, but also only the first one to visit India twice.
Dismissing the security concerns of the secret service, Obama sat in an open arena for three hours watching the parade that gave him a glimpse of India's cultural diversity and its military might. His visit also resulted in resolving the contentious pending issues in the civil nuclear deal.
President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to establish a hotline between them and launch a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and renew India-US Defence partnership agreement; thus giving a new dimension to this strategic bilateral ties at a time when China is flexing its muscle in disputed South China Sea.
The results were visible by the time when curtain came down on 2015. Obama and Modi had met thrice during the year – the two subsequent meetings were in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and one in Paris on the sidelines of the climate change summit.
Obama and Modi started talking frequently over the hotline, after it was established this summer. The US President has hotline or a secure line of communication only for a few world leaders.
US Ambassador to India Richard Verma said that during the recently concluded climate negotiations in Paris President Obama and Prime Minister Modi talked regularly on new secure communications lines to find common ground and develop ways to proceed in reaching an agreement.
India and US launched the first-ever strategic and commercial dialogue, bringing a whole-of- government approach. Currently, there are 30+ working groups and government-to-government dialogues between the two sides that have been established on everything from space cooperation, cyber security, global health security and civil aviation.
Manohar Parrikar's Hawaii visit:
In December, Manohar Parrikar became the first Indian Defence Minister to visit the Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii and gave a rare insight of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter himself accompanied Parrikar to America's top nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower and give his Indian counterpart a ride on his personal plane. At the end of the day, the two leaders spent nine hours together at a stretch last week.
Carter, who had visited India this summer to sign and renew the India-US Defence Partnership agreement for another 10 years, said the defence partnership between US and India will become 'an anchor of global security'.
Being described as a milestone, the defence trade and technology initiative has gained its own momentum as the two sides have started talking for co-operation in the field of jet engine and aircraft carriers in addition to co-development and co-production of a number of hi-tech military hardware. Bilateral defence trade this year crossed USD 14 billion.
India-US bilateral trade:
Bilateral trade between India and US is now around USD 100 billion - rising five-fold in the last decade. Obama and Modi have set a goal of taking it to USD 500 billion in the next few years. While sharp differences between the two nations remain on some of the key trade related issues including agriculture, pharma sector, intellectual property and H-1B visas, unlike in the previous years it did not spill out in the open or threatened to challenge the bilateral relationship.
Officials of the two countries now talk on a regular basis and have been brain storming on how to amicably address those differences. "We have put in place the structures to tackle those issues that not only unite us, but we can engage on those issues that might divide us as well. This is the hallmark of a mature and lasting friendship," Verma said.
The new bonhomie in India US ties is also reflected in the people-to-people relationship as a record number of Indian tourists came to the US. By the end of the year, around 180,000 Indian students were studying in various American universities. Between July and November alone more than 50,000 Indian students came to the US for higher studies.
PM Modi's visit to Silicon Valley:
For the first time in several decades, Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Silicon Valley to meet and interact with the leadership of American tech industry and address the large Indian diaspora there. India also held a Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Los Angeles in November.
PM Modi’s visit has resulted in a sudden spur in CEOs of top US IT companies travelling to India in the last two months – Microsoft, Google and Facebook.
The year also witnessed a spate of shooting incidents across US and attacks on members of the Sikhs community. Fourteen people were killed early this month when a heavily-armed young Pakistani-origin couple opened indiscriminate fire during a Christmas party at a centre for people with disabilities in California, the deadliest shooting in the US since the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012.
In September, a Sikh-American was viciously assaulted in a suburb outside of Chicago after being called 'Bin Laden'. The American-Sikh community, numbering nearly half-a- million, has seen a spur in hate-crimes against them after the California shooting.
This month, a Sikh temple in California was vandalised and a group of Sikh men were harassed by security staff and denied access to a stadium in San Diego city in California for an American football game because they were wearing turbans. Sikh-Americans have long been the target of racially motivated violence and discrimination in the United States, especially after the 9/11 terror attacks.
US-based Sikhs have launched a national campaign to tackle the growing misperceptions about their community post 9/11 terror attacks.
US political campaigns:
The year ends with a bitter political campaign with both Republicans and Democrats Presidential aspirants launching direct attacks on each others.
Leading Democratic Presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton slammed Donald Trump's recent comments about banning Muslim immigrants, saying the Republican front-runner was 'becoming ISIS's best recruiter'.
Clinton's remarks were soon criticised by Republican presidential candidates and their party. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus alleged that Clinton once again proved inconsistent on the issues and out-of-touch with the American people.
The Presidential election is scheduled for November 2016.
When Barack Obama visited India: