Skip to comments.US makes up with 'China is good, but India is better'
Posted on 11/19/2009 5:40:20 PM PST by cold start
New Delhi: US president Barack Obama ruffled Indian feathers on Tuesday. The next day, the American ambassador to India spent considerable effort in soothing offended sentiments.
Timothy Roemer almost ran out of adjectives to describe the state of India-US ties, even as the ministry of external affairs expressed displeasure at Obama's statement with Chinese president Hu Jintao, which seemed to project China as the prime mover for peace and stability in South Asia.
Roemer's charm offensive is a bid towards damage control ahead of prime minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington next week.
A joint-statement by the US and China on Tuesday had said: "The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace and development in that region." This is being interpreted as Obama bowing deeper to Beijing than to the emperor of Japan, and involving China in Indo-Pak ties.
Reacting to the subsequent discomfort in Indian circles, the US ambassador went out of his way to indicate that relations with New Delhi were, in fact, on the top of Obama's agenda.
The envoy recalled that before he came to New Delhi for his assignment, Obama had personally described ties with this country as the "best and most important relationship to him and the people of the United States".
But despite the exaggerated importance Roemer is giving to the visit, the fact remains that India is not amused at the mention of China's role in India-Pakistan affairs. The external affairs ministry reacted to the joint statement making the point that "a third country role cannot be envisaged nor is it necessary. We also believe that a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan can take place only in an environment free from terror or the threat of terror." India said all issues with Pakistan would be resolved bilaterally.
"This is not a good signal ahead of the prime minister's visit," said former foreign secretary and ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh. "I won't call it a calamity but it is certainly insensitive of Washington. China had never been a factor in India-Pakistan affairs. This naturally will not be well received in New Delhi."
He pointed out that perhaps the Americans don't have an institutional memory. He recalled that after India's nuclear tests in 1998, former US president Bill Clinton and China's Jiang Jemin had issued a joint statement, which nearly broke up the Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh talks. Talbott had later discreetly apologised. Mansingh said that India is far more confident now and is likely to take up the issue when the PM meets Obama.
The envoy also brought up the 'terror talk' and said that the US has been urging Pakistan to take action and show results on bringing the Mumbai terror suspects to book and to destroy the infrastructure of terror in that country. He said that America's Af-Pak policy and the situation in the region would be discussed threadbare during Singh's meeting with the Obama.
"India and the US will continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder, hand-in-hand and hour-by- hour to co-operate on combating terrorism," Roemer said.
"We are excited to have the prime minister visiting Washington," Roemer said, adding that he was leaving for Washington on Thursday to prepare for the talks with Obama.
He said the two leaders would be unveiling a new strategic relationship with global overtones. In short, with no big items on the agenda, Singh and Obama can concentrate on a comprehensive anti-terror agreement, on clean and green energy and take the civil nuclear agreement forward.
Roemer added the US and India would work together to protect their citizens from terrorism. This will entail exchange in information and technologies.
On being questioned on the statement, he said: "The two sides have said they would work for a more stable and peaceful relationship between countries in South Asia." He said the US wanted to ensure a peaceful and prosperous rise of China and at the same time wanted a close global partnership with India.
"It is all right for Obama to ask China's help in stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan, but getting Beijing into India-Pakistan is silly," said former diplomat Arundhuti Ghosh.
Analyst Alka Acharya had a different take. "We must realise that China-US have a totally different relationship, they are two of the biggest powers in the world...and will naturally comment on what is happening in the neighbourhood. Instead of making sanctimonious remarks, when the PM goes to Washington we can have a line in the joint statement on Tibet and the Dalai Lama. This would be more meaningful," she said.
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