Skip to comments.INDIA GETS WARY OF OBAMA (The Times of India)
Posted on 11/21/2009 11:44:08 AM PST by AmericanInTokyo
China , Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan... US president Barack Obama ran through the gamut of nations as he articulated another elegant Asia policy speech in Tokyo this week. Conspicuous by its absence was India. Was India not on his radar? Or was it such a close ally that he skipped naming it at a public function? It left New Delhi wondering. Just two days later, bam! He did something even more astonishing by acquiescing in a Chinese demand to let Beijing assume the role of a monitor in South Asia, an area where China is seen by India as part of the problem, not the solution.
As Manmohan Singh heads to Washington this weekend for a state visit with Obama, capping a week of US-Asia engagement, it is becoming increasingly obvious that something is amiss in Indo-US relations . Somewhere, it would appear, the growing mutual faith, fostered by the much-maligned George Bush Jr and Manmohan Singh, seems to be chipping at the edges. The meeting in Washington could make the growing edginess apparent. There will, no doubt, be an accumulation of many small ideas - agriculture , education, technology, climate change, business , counter-terrorism , and so on - which would be cemented by the good personal chemistry between Manmohan Singh and Obama at the summit. But would it all add to the big picture that was emerging between the two biggest democracies of the world?
What is this "big picture" ? The Americans have articulated it thus. In March 2005, the Bush administration's advisor, Philip Zelikow, defined its new policy on South Asia, saying: "( The US' ) goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century. We understand fully the implications, including military implications of this statement." Former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill recently elaborated on it, "Bush based his transformation of US-India relations on the core strategic principle of democratic India as a key factor in balancing the rise of Chinese power. This was not based on the concept of containing China. Rather, it centered on the idea that the US and India had enormous equities in promoting responsible international policies on the part of China and that deep US-India bilateral cooperation in that respect was in the vital national interests of both countries."
In other words, the US was beginning to see India as a key player in Asia, at par with China; in fact, possibly as a democratic counterweight to an overtly ambitious China. Indo-US relations started on this new path which culminated with the nuclear deal. That was expected to have been the beginning of the game-changing experience. Somewhere it seems the Obama administration doesn't have, or haven't yet developed, a taste for the experience. It's not yet able to see the next stage of the transformation. For, the big picture is ultimately about transforming institutions and mindsets of the administration of the two countries. William Cohen, former US defence secretary, doesn't quite agree. He told Crest: "I think President Obama has a big picture on India, for he decided months ago to host PM Singh for the first official state visit of his presidency. It is well understood in policy circles in Washington, but perhaps not expressed clearly or often enough, that India continues to play a critical role in the stability of South Asia. President Obama is trying to develop relationships on a broad base to promote stability and peace in the world."
Cohen's optimism isn't shared by Ashley Tellis, senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment. Says Tellis: "The Obama administration is not thinking in geopolitical terms." Adds an Indian official: "This administration is taking a regime-centred approach to international politics. That is a structural flaw." As a matter of fact, New Delhi is still to get a handle on the Obama administration's strategic priorities where India is concerned. Says a top Indian official: "We understand America's tactical compulsions. What we don't understand is what is its big strategy."
Some analysts say that it's still early to expect a clear strategic direction from the Obama regime. For one thing, it's still only Obama's first year in office (it took Bush and Bill Clinton four years to start a meaningful engagement with India). For another, Obama was thrown into the deep end with the financial crisis, Iraq and then the war in Afghanistan forcing him to take up the urgent before the important. So, it would be silly to get impatient, say the analysts , while pointing out that Obama will be in India before another year is out, which too will be a first for a US President. It was also possible, they say, the structural imbalances between the US and China - caused by the financial crisis - is forcing Obama to be more pliant than he would have been otherwise.
So, as Obama feels his way, could New Delhi stepped into the breach? Yes, perhaps, but India's foreign policy has been traditionally passive, and reaction-oriented . What has possibly caused greater inertia in South Block is that, at the officials' level, there is still apprehensions about being seen as a US partner. This is a far cry from the almost lusty way in which Indian and US civil society rush to engage - through business, education, and every other 21st century attribute . The contrast only reinforces the need to change the mindset of officialdom. Unless changed, small things can become big irritants. This used to be the case in the Clinton years, because there was no big idea behind the relationship. The pattern is again becoming similar.
When Obama said that a resolution of the Kashmir problem was key to sorting out the mess in Afghanistan, it set Indian hackles up. Likewise, when Stanley McCrystal stated in his review that Indian activity in Afghanistan was raising concerns in Pakistan , India got deeply upset, without really engaging with the Americans on this front. In fact, in all these months, only former foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon has made the effort to intensively engage with the Obama administration and give them an understanding of Indian strategic thought. With the US-China joint statement this week, New Delhi is bristling yet again in the belief that Obama is giving China a free rein at a time when India-China ties are particularly low.
All of this has made Indo-US relations once again a-rhythmic . The two countries are rarely moving in pace, and often botching up things in areas where they had developed an understanding. On Afghanistan, for instance, American and Indian policies are running largely parallel to each other. India is one of the largest stakeholders in Afghanistan after the US, and yet there is no coordination between the two, largely because Washington is still too busy trying to keep the Pakistan generals in humour by giving them all kinds of sops. India feels, as a result, jihadis are virtually running the show in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. But no one is still taking the initiative to make Washington see reason.
China is more complicated than Pakistan or Afghanistan. As it happens, this is China's moment , and both India and the US concede as much. However, what is worrying folks here is whether Obama's Asia tour, especially his statement in China, indicates his desire to wind down the American super-power status in the region . If that were so, China will move to fill in the vacuum not because it's pushy and aggressive but because US would be ceding far too much ground. The alarm at this possibility was in evidence this week as Obama travelled through China.
Many felt Obama went to China "as a profligate spender going to see his banker." And China never let him forget it. Not only were his public events censored, he was the first US president in a while not to get a live broadcast in China. Also the Chinese managed to get a joint statement out of a US president after failing to do so for eight years with George Bush.
The new US thinking on China is to try and persuade China to sit hard on Pakistan regarding its support to terrorists and Al Qaeda. But this thinking, according to Indian strategists, is flawed because it's not in Chinese interest to make Pakistan "behave" with India. The strategy could end up as a repeat of the North Korean experience . Said a senior official, "China believes it has India pinned by Pakistan and its jihadi antics the same way it believes it has Japan pinned with North Korea and its nuclear antics." China, therefore has little reason to help clean up Pakistan.
The world around India is not looking good. And with the US otherwise occupied, there could be a dangerous drift in Indo-US relations . The instinctive official Indian response is that this is the time to batten down the hatches. Says a high-level policy maker: "Keep your head down. Let us consolidate the gains we have made with the US over the past few years." These would be incremental gains for India in development and economic areas, security and defence. It would seem Obama thinks along these lines. As he had said: "Our rapidly growing and deepening friendship with India offers benefits to all the world's citizens as our scientists solve environmental challenges together , our doctors discover new medicines , our engineers advance our societies , our entrepreneurs generate prosperity , our educators lay the foundation for our future generations, and our governments work together to advance peace, prosperity, and stability."
But strategists don't think that biding the time is a bright idea. K Subrahmanyan , one of India's top strategic thinkers, said this is the time for India to take the lead in the relationship. According to him, Obama changed the rules of the game in China, when he said conflict was no longer possible, but competition was. India, he believes should step into the breach, and offer to partner US in innovations, technology , and other areas, to redefine the global race once more. He insists that Obama finds the thought of China being US' banker disagreeable. India should now reach out and partner the US to wean it off that dependency. Tellis says that Obama should take the initiative and support India at the UN Security Council , bring it into the global non-proliferation regime, so by time US convenes its nuclear security summit in 2010, India is there as leader of the disarmament ideal.
Suggestions are many and they often come easier than it is possible to act on them. Still, it would seem that unless India takes the lead in Indo-US ties, it will continue to be wary of Obama. And from there, a return to distrust in bilateral relationship is not such a big step away.
"Obama's going to change the world." "Yes, we CAN!"
I’ve been weary of the freak from the first time I heard him open his mouth.
As any smart country should be...
It’s official. Every ally of the US has been dissed by Obama, and every enemy supported. He has already stabbed the UK, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Hunduras, Columbia, and especially Israel. He has supported Venezuela, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China. Welcome to the new world order where fascism is supported by the US, and liberty and democracy are undermined. The amount of damage this President is doing to this country is incalculable, especially with such huge majorities in Congress.
India has every right to be suspicious of Obama.
His behavior and public statements leave no room for doubt that he is Muslim. India has enough problems with Muslims in surrounding nations wanting to destroy them, now a U.S. President who is ignoring India’s growing desire to be an ally.
You and me both.
Bottom line, he just gave his support to China to run rough shod over India. He's quickly crossing off America's allies and rousing up our enemies. With the equally rapid loss of our freedoms, well, makes you think that Mayan datekeeper might have been on to something for 12/21/2012.
hey why not India, I mean he has treated our best ally the UK like crap,he has treated other allies like Czech, Poland, Israel like crap.
germany and France are not as close as they were under Bush
But hey right the loon left said they wanted to be liked so I guess that means trat out allies like crap and then hope our allies might not hate us as much but instead they laugh at us for the weakness being shown
forgot about Honduras and Columbia in my post thanks
talked to my family over in England and they are pissed off with how obama is treating foreign policy, They are all saying over there now that he seems to have no clue.
That is way over his head and he cannot think of himself as a leader when he shows no leadership.
Many are talking about getting troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now because of how obama is treating the country.
Quite honestly I don’t blame them.
He has treated our allies like crap and our enemies laugh at us.
“He looks like a defeated sack of potatoes...”
Thats an insult to perfectly rotted out potatoes....
Agreed. Obama is incompetent.
It is so bad, it’s affecting our family in ways we’ve never thought possible. My nephew is going to be 18-years old soon. It is family tradition to serve a time in the military, going all the way back to our ancestor who was a cavalry officer in George Washington’s Army. But we’re apprehensive of President Obama and his antipathy for most Americans, and who never served and doesn’t have any feelings for military personnel or their families. Why sacrifice our young people for this horrible man. I’m not surprised Europeans are arriving at the same decision.
Because of the above we support withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama is making a botch of the job.
China , Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan... US president Barack Obama ran through the gamut of nations as he articulated another elegant Asia policy speech in Tokyo this week. Conspicuous by its absence was India. Was India not on his radar? Or was it such a close ally that he skipped naming it at a public function? It left New Delhi wondering. Just two days later, bam! He did something even more astonishing by acquiescing in a Chinese demand to let Beijing assume the role of a monitor in South Asia, an area where China is seen by India as part of the problem, not the solution.Of course, they also need to shut up here and there:
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