US President Barack Obama Image Credit: EPA

A high-level meeting loaded with potential was hijacked by inane speechmaking and the efforts of US President Barack Obama to trump his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with slick wordplay and soaring rhetoric at a reception hosted by her for her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna.

This is what makes the efforts of the US to cultivate a relationship with India so superficial. Words of praise and eloquent quotes at a high-level meeting of dignitaries are insincere when one party constantly plays a balancing act in a game that has little regard for truth and is based on shifting realities and perceived through a prism of self-interest.

The sceptics will remain underwhelmed by the president's smart wordplay because the US must give India tangible proof that there are going to be specific deliverables in this "mutually beneficial" relationship. So far the former has fallen short in keeping its part of the bargain — the initiation of the nuclear deal notwithstanding.

There is limited engagement in the area of counter-terrorism, a few Indian science and defence entities are still facing sanctions and Washington is reluctant to endorse India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This is a one-way street that goes the US way.