US needs to repair its image in India

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India and the United States have come a long way since the end of the Cold War to build their bilateral relationship almost from scratch. The mood at both ends is positive. After the April 11 night meeting between the Prime Mini-ster, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and the US President,  Barack Obama, the US government described the ties as “robust,” with lots more to share in times ahead not just in bilateral relations but also in India making a contribution to addressing key international issues. Much of the optimism on both sides is justified. The India-US civil nuclear agreement signed under the Bush administration did much to fill the India-US dynamics with the spirit of optimism and mutual confidence. This can provide a lever for the ties to evolve greatly in the right direction for mutual benefit. And yet, leaders and policy-framers in Washington would do well to be sensitive to the fact that a significant cause — at the people level, if not always at the level of the government — for ambiguities and doubts in the past in respect of the US harbored by all classes of Indians was the perceived American support to Pakistan in the latter’s adversarial expressions toward this country. This unfortunate triangulation has taken a long time to shake off. However, a modicum of doubt creeps right back in whenever it is perceived here (sometimes without sufficient reason) that the US-Pakistan military terms remain warm, and this gives Islamabad the sense that it can carry on with its proxy war against India, confident that in the end the US will look away as it badly needs the Pakistan Army for its geopolitical ends in this part of the world. The issue of access to David Headley, on which the Americans have appeared ambivalent, has once again stoked the concerns of Indians, although  Obama is reported to have responded sympathetically to Dr. Singh’s expression of concern. The Headley issue coinciding with the gifting of armaments to Pakistan — although to fight terrorism in the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt — has heightened concerns here. The history is that Pakistan has used US-supplied arms against India. It is not hard to see that a key reason for Dr. Singh to have a bilateral meeting with the US leader on the eve of the Nuclear Security Summit was to make  Obama conscious that the quality of the triangulation must change if the full potential of the India-US ties is to be realized. Within the broad constraints of geopolitics imposed on the US on account of the Afghanistan factor,  Obama has given the impression that he understands Indian worries. Reports suggest that he communicated India’s views to the Pakistan Prime Minister,  Yousaf Raza Gilani. These have two inter-related strands. One, that India’s high-growth trajectory contributes to global financial stabilization after the recession, and that this growth path is sought to be disrupted by Pakistani terrorism. This extends to saying that if Pakistan does not put an end to this and does not seriously move against the terrorists, who hit Mumbai, there cannot be an atmosphere of trust between the two countries. This leads to the second strand — that Pakistan taking action to root out terrorism against India is important for South Asian security.

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle

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