PM may look to firm up strategic ties with US

Singh to meet Obama on Tuesday

PM may look to firm up strategic ties with US


At a time when the Indo-US ties have grown on many fronts, New Delhi has, however, begun to perceive that the Obama administration might not be as committed as the previous Bush administration to building a comprehensive global “strategic partnership” between the two countries.

Top Indian officials have been a bit reticent about publicly articulating New Delhi’s concerns. But that is more than evident as they do not expect the Singh-Obama summit next Tuesday to either impart fresh momentum to the strategic partnership, which when jointly announced by the two countries a few years ago, had caused disquiet to China and Pakistan.

Pegging down expectations from the Singh-Obama summit was none other than Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who on the eve of the Prime Minister’s departure for Washington, said in New Delhi that the visit was intended mainly to “reaffirm” their commitment to partnership.

Singh would, indeed, be seeking signals of that reaffirmation from Obama. And, he would be looking for signals on at least two fronts, both of which are crucial in India’s strategic and foreign policy perspective.

First, Singh would be anxious to know from the President his interpretation of the a couple of key paragraphs in the last week’s US-China joint statement in Beijing that said the two countries would work together to build strategic stability in South Asia.
There have been suggestions recently from American strategic experts that the US and China should work towards forming a sort of an exclusive Group (G-2) between them to manage world affairs. New Delhi has wondered if the Beijing joint statement is the first sign of the emergence of that G-2.

Delhi hardly hides its worries on this count, especially as regards South Asia. “Neither we are interested in guardianship of any region nor will we accept anyone else’s guardianship of any region.” This sums up the mood on the Indian side.
Since the US-China joint statement last week, Beijing has ‘got in touch’ with Delhi to clarify that it has no intention to involve itself in South Asian affairs, particularly the Indo-Pak dispute. But concerns about the US ‘recognising’ a guardianship role for China in South Asia seemed to remain.

Second, India is apprehensive about the Obama administration’s continued reliance on Pakistan as a key non-NATO ally in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. More so, as Washington has been suggesting that it could consider a role for Taliban in its efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Pakistan is deeply worried over the Indian involvement in Afghan reconstruction efforts and perceives it as a threat to its national security and believes the best way to counter this is by pressing for a role for the rebel Taliban—a proposition many in the Obama administration are willing to consider as part of an exit policy for the US, militarily.

If Taliban again wins in Afghanistan, its implications (for India) are ‘very grave,’ India firmly believes. On Tuesday, Singh might get a better picture of the Obama administration’s priorities on these critical  issues for India.

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