India – Hillary Clinton’s Darling

okrishna%20radhillaryThe Clintons have a natural affinity with India for the past one and half decades. Induced by the Indian diaspora they were pushing for India than China or Pakistan. Now Hillary in the helm of state affairs India should get preferential treament in trade, technology and diplomatic matters.

K. Subramanhyam writes in The Times of India (14 July 2009)

In the last 62 years of India-US relations, no US secretary of state had credentials anywhere comparable to Hillary Clinton’s in the matter of promoting the bilateral partnership. As senator, she co-founded and co-chaired the India caucus. She has visited India more than once. She has a constituency among Indian-Americans, most of whom supported, electorally and financially, her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In Washington on June 17, Clinton addressed the US-India business council meeting, setting out the agenda for her India visit and for India-US relations in general under the Obama administration. She intends to build stage III of the relationship, with India as a key partner helping America shape the 21st century. The earlier two stages were, according to her, the Cold War years and the post-Cold War period up to the end of the Bush administration and the India-US nuclear deal. She proposes to build ties on four natural platforms: global security, human development, economic activity and science and technology.

Recent security-related developments are likely to dominate her interaction with the Indian leadership. Pakistani president Asif Zardari has admitted that “militants and extremists were created and nurtured in the country as a policy to achieve some short-term political objectives”. There are reports of the Pakistani army and ISI offering to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table with the US provided the latter ensures that India’s involvement in Afghanistan is reduced. Both disclosures validate India’s assessment that the Taliban obtained safe haven in Pakistan with the full connivance of the army, which made jihadi groups its instruments.

In his Af-Pak strategy, Barack Obama termed the al-Qaeda, its extremist allies and the Taliban as enemies to be defeated. Urged to fight them, Pakistan had its army launch campaigns against Pakistani Taliban groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas but not against Afghan Taliban functioning from Quetta or jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, allied to al-Qaeda. The Lahore high court in the Hafiz Saeed case held that Pakistan’s security and anti-terrorism laws were silent on al-Qaeda being a terrorist organisation. Despite al-Qaeda’s outlawing by the UN seven years ago, this remains the position in a country claiming to be a frontline state in the war against terrorism.

Clinton in her speech said terrorism was a “common threat” to be met “with a common strategy”. Indian investment of $1.2 billion in infrastructure projects in Afghanistan is part of the nation-building efforts common to the anti-Taliban campaign. Pakistan wants India’s participation discontinued. An undeveloped Afghanistan will be vulnerable to a takeover by a Taliban that’s able to survive by negotiating the exit of the US-led coalition forces.
Pakistan is offering to arrange this, and interest has been expressed in some quarters in America on talking with some Taliban elements. There is a strong, well-reasoned rebuttal of that approach in Ashley Tellis’s paper, Reconciling with Taliban.

Pakistan’s approach to al-Qaeda and its extremist allies and the Afghan Taliban, as well as its fears about India’s presence in Afghanistan will be core issues for Clinton in New Delhi. The outcome of discussions will be a litmus test of whether the US and India can develop a common strategy against extremist forces.

The second aspect of global security will be Obama’s commitment to promoting nuclear disarmament. Clinton has called for work to realise the vision articulated by generations of Indians and Americans. The two countries have some basic differences in approach. The US approach is to accept the role of nuclear weapons and move towards the distant goal of disarmament through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and arms reduction and control measures. Obama accepts that a nuclear weapons-free world may not be achieved in his lifetime.

India’s approach is to start with delegitimisation of nuclear arms and their role as a currency of power, and to move towards elimination. Chemical weapons are an example of delegitimisation leading to elimination. There is no instance of the restricted cartelisation of nuclear weapons as represented by the NPT leading to total elimination. While the non-proliferation regime needs to be sustained, arms reduction and control will have to be founded on delegitimisation. There is a lot of scope for exchange of ideas between the two countries. Perhaps a joint task force may be considered to reconcile viewpoints.

The remaining issues are less contentious. The global economic crisis is likely to lead to a new world order where the US must review its strategy to sustain its position as the world’s pre-eminent economic, technological and military power. It will need strategic partners. As Clinton said, India could be one of the key partners as a democracy and an English-speaking country, with the Indian diaspora playing a bridging role. But neither side is used to dealing with partners. America has worked with allies depending on it for their security. India has been isolationist under the non-alignment rubric. Both have to learn mutual give-and-take and the emerging world order may well create conditions compelling them to explore a meaningful partnership.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: