NATIONAL SECURITY & INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: Hardball with UN hope – while quietly side-lining the lucrative defence contracts ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ARCHIS MOHAN AND NISHIT DHOLABHAI
New Delhi, Oct. 21: Indian officials expect US President Barack Obama to express support for India’s bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat when he comes visiting next month.
Sources said the US had relayed its willingness to support India’s bid, a subject on which America has so far been non-committal.
Last week, foreign minister S.M. Krishna had said India needed to do “hard bargaining” with the five permanent Security Council members to achieve its objective, that bargaining seems to be bearing fruit at a time Washington hopes to seal multi-billion-dollar deals with New Delhi during Obama’s three-day state visit.
There now seems a possibility that Obama’s trip, which starts on November 6, may be lengthened by a day and that he may visit cities other than Delhi and Mumbai. Government sources said he might even visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Reports had said that Obama might skip the Sikh shrine for fear that if he covered his head with a scarf as tradition there required, it might reinforce false propaganda in the US that he was indeed a Muslim.
“We have not finalised the schedule for (India),” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told agencies in the US today. “Look, it’s a big country and we’d love to spend more than the three allotted days.”
According to the current schedule, the Obamas will arrive in Mumbai on November 6 and check into the Taj. The next day, the President will meet Indian industrialists and then fly to Delhi to attend a US embassy dinner.
His itinerary for November 8 includes a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a visit to Raj Ghat, an address to a joint session of Parliament, talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Hyderabad House, and a banquet at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He is to leave India on November 9 morning.
But sources say both countries feel the itinerary needs to be bolstered if Obama has to return with a bagful of deals and as someone who won the hearts and minds of Indians. The likelihood of his voicing support for India’s Security Council bid is part of the strategy.
India’s decision to play hardball on defence deals may also have helped. Today, The Telegraph had reported how India’s defence secretary had hinted at the military’s discomfort over US proposals for defence deals.
India also wants the US to end the advanced nuclear technology sanctions, and take organisations like the DRDO and Isro off its negative end-user list. Obama is expected to meet these demands.
In a related development, US ambassador Timothy Roemer told a TV channel today that Kashmir was an “internal issue to India”.
US under-secretary for political affairs William Burns and the assistant secretary for South Asia, Robert Blake, are in Delhi to discuss Obama’s visit.
Burns will travel to Calcutta to meet Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan, who as national security adviser had played a key role in the signing of the civil nuclear deal.
“Burns will travel to Kolkata to meet with Narayanan and will pay homage at Mother Teresa’s grave,” a US embassy statement said.
Sources would not reveal why Burns needed to meet Narayanan, but conceded that it was unusual for a senior US official to visit a governor, who occupies a largely ceremonial post.