INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY: Obama elevates India-US ties to global level – but does India have the capacity for delicate, soave and smooth tight-rope diplomacy or will the petty politicians below ruin the game and the name ?!!
By Siddhartha Kumar
New Delhi, Nov 9, 2010, 11:26 GMT: President Barack Obama’s India visit marked a shift in strategic ties by outlining a global role for the Asian nation and raising its international profile, developments bound to be watched with concern by an assertive China.
Obama, who concluded his visit Tuesday, described India as a ‘world power’ and made several key announcements that affirmed the country’s importance as a global rather than a South Asian power.
He told parliament that the US backed India’s bid for a permanent seat on a revamped UN Security Council. The endorsement had been awaited by the Indian establishment for many years.
Besides lifting restrictions on high-technology exports to India, Obama also built on the landmark US-India nuclear deal that had helped end New Delhi’s nuclear pariah status. He announced support for India’s membership in non-proliferation organizations like the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The US and India would collaborate on joint projects in Africa and Afghanistan, as both sides unveiled a partnership for democracy and development across the globe.
Obama detailed the US’s new role for India as a factor of security in East Asia, a region considered China’s sphere of influence.
The announcement came against the backdrop of increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region, and was in line with assessments by foreign policy analysts who say that Washington views India as a counterweight to China’s growing might in Asia.
Obama, whose efforts to draw China into a closer relationship were spurned by Beijing, is currently touring Indonesia, Japan and South Korea in East Asia, all democracies which have problems with China.
In that context, Obama’s backing for a UN permanent seat for Delhi and a role in East Asia were likely to rankle in China, which often considers India a competitor.
China is the only permanent member on the Security Council which has not supported India’s claim so far.
Chinese state-run media also noted with concern Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful East Asia visit recently, which led to free trade deals with Japan and South Korea.
Despite booming trade, Beijing and Delhi share uneasy ties due to a protracted boundary dispute and recent tensions over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, exiled in India.
New Delhi believes China is using its all-weather ally Pakistan strategically to contain India in South Asia. Singh recently said Beijing could use India’s ‘soft underbelly’ of Kashmir and Pakistan to ‘keep India in a low-level equilibrium.’
‘Yes, it will worry the People’s Republic of China, how far the US goes … Because the US has a very strange relation with China. It’s a love-hate relationship,’ said India’s former foreign minister Jaswant Singh, who is credited with forging India-US ties.
‘We have to work this through very carefully,’ he told the NDTV network.
Analysts are unsure whether Delhi would want to play a counterbalancing role.
‘I think the Indian policymakers would do well to understand the India-US relationship for its strengths alone. China should not be antagonized, it is as vital a partner for us as it is for the US,’ Sanjeev Kumar Shrivastav, from the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, said.
The relationships between the US, China and India are considered key to the geo-strategic equation not only in Asia, but in the world, in the years to come.
‘While we might not be taking note of the fact, but the India-US relationship is about building a counterweight to China. That subtext is there. It’s not an overt text,’ said Zoya Hasan, political scientist at the Delhi’s Jawharlal Nehru University.
She said there was a difference between grandiose statements at a summit and the ‘reality of power.’
‘Now the (Obama) visit laid the foundations of a new, strategic partnership, the question is whether India is ready for this relationship,’ she said.
OBAMA VISIT: Half step forward on UN and Pakistan – half a loaf better than no loaf at all ?!! Half a step closer better than moving away ?!!
From India Today
By Poornima Joshi
New Delhi, November 9, 2010, 08:25 IST: US President Barack Obama on Monday held the promise of support to India’s bid for permanent membership to the UN Security Council as a cornerstone for a future bilateral relationship.
But he also warned that “with increased power comes increased responsibility” and that New Delhi must be prepared to intervene on issues like human rights violations in Burma and nuclear proliferation concerns related to Iran.
“In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” he said in his address to the joint session of Parliament.
The tenor of his remarks on India and its possible permanent membership of the UN Security Council were carefully couched, even though they drew generous applause from the lawmakers gathered in the Central Hall of the Parliament House. Even so, they represented a diplomatic gesture rather than a concrete assurance.
Obama also partially addressed India’s concerns about terrorism emanating in Pakistan by maintaining that “we will continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice”. However, he steered clear from pointing fingers at the Pakistani state establishment.
It was clear from his generous remarks on India, its culture and achievements, that the US is wooing India. Obama’s endeavour was to give the gathered members of Parliament a glimpse of the enormous possibilities that would open up to an India that is more significantly aligned to the US. Even though he spoke of India as already having “emerged” rather than “emerging”, it was clear that he saw his visit as a major step in a work that was still in progress – a closer Indo-US alliance.
His remarks on India’s permanent membership at the UN Security Council were part of a piece wherein New Delhi’s entry into the big league was still seen in some future. It is in this context that he noted: “In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.”
He also said: “As two global leaders, the United States and India can partner for global security – especially as India serves on the Security Council over the next two years. Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate.”
While a majority of the political class reserved comment, the Left openly criticised the speech as “noncommittal” and “disappointing”. But the South Block mandarins rejoiced in Obama’s undertaking. It was the first time that the US President had made a specific statement of intent regarding UNSC in the Indian Parliament.
As former foreign minister and BJP leader Jaswant Singh put it: “It was a powerful endorsement. It is very welcome and very eloquently put.” Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani said: “In today’s speech, he has met with the expectations of the Indian people.” South Block sources added: “It was a very good speech. It was forward-looking. It outlined the future trajectory of our substantive bilateral ties.”
In the case of Pakistan, though, the US President walked a tightrope – to address India’s concerns regarding statesponsored terrorism without alienating a key strategic partner upon whom the US dependence has only increased in recent years. Nonetheless, Parliament viewed it as a way forward even if not as a long stride forward as the MPs would have desired.
“Our strategy to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates has to succeed on both sides of the border,” Obama said. “That is why we have worked with the Pakistani government to address the threat of terrorist networks in the border region. The Pakistani government increasingly recognises that these networks are not just a threat outside of Pakistan – they are a threat to the Pakistani people, who have suffered greatly at the hands of violent extremists.”
He added: “We will continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice. We must also recognise that all of us have an interest in both an Afghanistan and a Pakistan that is stable, prosperous and democratic – and none more so than India.”
Invoking references to the Panchtantra, Swami Vivekananda and B.R. Ambedkar, the visiting President sought to develop his connect with India. He referred to the aloofness of the Cold War era and the new beginning in the form of the civil nuclear deal and outlined the future by pointing to the responsibilities that come along with US support to the bid for permanent UNSC membership. Obama also hinted at another controversial undertaking, the Proliferation Security Initiative.
“Together, the United States and India can pursue our goal of securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials,” he noted, observing that “every nation must also meet its international obligations – and that includes the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
On the issue of Myanmar, the US President was almost undiplomatically frank noting that faced with “gross violations of human rights” in Burma, “it is the responsibility of the international community – especially leaders like the United States and India – to condemn it”. Adding in a pointed rebuke, he said: “If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues.”