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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

With India unable to force its view US downgrading relations with Delhi

April 11, 2009

By Chandramohan - Syndicate Features
Asian Tribune
April 9, 2009

There is an impression among a section of Indians
that the Obama administration has already or will
downgrade relations with India, which had touched
an unprecedented high during the reign of the
much-maligned George W. Bush. Even if true, that
may not bother most Indian as much as it’s more
likely fallout of reversion to the old South Asia
policy of the US that ‘tilted’ towards Islamabad at the expense of New Delhi.

A number of decisions taken by the Obama
administration do suggest that India cannot
expect, let us say, any further upward jump in
Indo-US relations. On the other hand, some signs
that will point to a downward swing in these
bilateral relations are already visible.

Despite the diplomatic obfuscation over his
statement making Kashmir a pre-requisite to
lowering tensions in South Asia, President Barak
Obama has reversed the Bush administration policy
that had taken India’s relation with the US out
of an uncomfortable India-Pakistan - US triangle.
This is indicated by his belief that Pakistan is
the key to any American ‘success’ in Afghanistan
and that India must make concessions to Pakistan
to keep its military energies focused on its western borders with Afghanistan.

India cannot allow the US or Pakistan to shape
its Afghan policy, especially when Pakistan has
always tried to extend its hegemony over that
unfortunate nation. It has been reported that
Obama has appointed two consultants who provide
him inputs for his South Asia policy. One of them
is a Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid, who may
be a ‘liberal’ and pro-West in the eyes of the
Pakistanis, but on India his views are no
different from that of the Pakistani
establishment---ask India to give up Kashmir or
continue to be subjected to Pakistan’s tried and
tested policy of bleeding India with thousand cuts.

Before the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as
special representative to ‘Af-Pak’ region was
announced his mandate was to cover three
countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. When
that drew protest from India, Obama ostensibly
took India out of Holbrooke’s mandate but without
disagreeing with the Pakistani formulation that
India has to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan before
it can expect ‘normal’ relations with Pakistan.
Those who say that Pakistan is ready to give up
its physical claim on Kashmir if an alternative
solution is found that satisfies India, Pakistan
and the Kashmiris can fool nobody.

If that were the case, Pakistan would have shown
more enthusiasm than it has so far in the
so-called confidence building measures (CBMs)
introduced on Kashmir. Pakistan has recently
suspended a bus service between Srinagar and
Muzaffarabad due to ‘technical reasons’. Easing
restrictions on the movement of ‘divided’
families in Kashmir may have been seen in India
as a step towards making the borders
‘irrelevant’, but Pakistan does not share that view.

America’s renewed subscription to the Pakistani
theory on Kashmir became more evident when, so
say media reports, the foreign secretary, Shiv
Shankar Menon, was told in Washington that India
must withdraw a part of its army from the
Pakistani border to help Islamabad concentrate its troops on the Afghan border.

Clearly, the Americans have willingly bought the
Pakistani canard that following the 26/11 Mumbai
terror attacks India was amassing troops on the
Pakistani border. India has denied having done
any such thing and the Americans know it well.
They also realise why the Pakistanis are creating
a scare about Indian troops on their border: to
find an excuse for their half-hearted efforts at
containing the Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists
who have safe havens in Pakistan’s western regions.

The Americans have also been easing pressure on
Pakistan to be serious in getting to the bottom
of the Mumbai terror attacks, which now even the
Pakistanis admit were plotted in their country.
Sure that the American pressure on them has now
eased because Obama’s Afghanistan policy requires
Pakistan’s full cooperation, the Pakistanis have
adopted a frivolous and cavalier approach to the
‘information’ given to them by India on the
Mumbai attacks, including the Indian response to
the ‘30+2’ queries they had sent after
deliberating on ways to put the blame for that tragedy on India.

The subtle or not so subtle changes in the US
policy towards India are becoming visible either
because Washington is convinced that India has no
ace up its sleeve to force it to see the Indian
point, or New Delhi is not willing to do or say
anything that sounds even mildly offensive to the new US administration.

Meekness by today’s India, seen despite the
global meltdown as a rising power of the current
century, will have to be shed. There are many
political, economic and strategic reasons for the
US to maintain a level of good and friendly
relations with India. True, these reasons are
more valid in US relations with China.

It is instructive to note that within weeks of
coming to power, a belief has grown that the US
is no longer ardent about hectoring China on its
human rights record. The Tibetans are worried
that the US is about to abandon the Dalai Lama
and the movement for freeing Tibet. Britain has
already made a significant shift in its Tibet
policy by accepting China’s ‘sovereignty’ over
Tibet, instead of China’s ‘suzerainty’ over Tibet.

In the matter of trade and commercial relations
with the US, India cannot hope to match the
Chinese. But the Indian markets, especially the
high-valued defence market and lately the market
for nuclear plants, salivates the Americans. They
would not have otherwise agreed to sell some of
their sophisticated war machinery to India, a
country that is taking up a multi-billion
programme to upgrade its military forces. There
are far too many suitors standing at India’s door
to bother about the Americans.

The Americans cannot be oblivious of the fact
that while India has no leverage over their
client Pakistan, its influence does extend over a
vast region where Washington has strategic interests.

Above all, a matter of deep concern for the new
US administration is how to refurbish the
American image in the world after the battering
it received during the last years of the Bush
administration. Giving short shrift to the
world’s largest democracy, which is about to
repose once again its faith in the power of the
ballot, will surely not be one of the best ways to do that.

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