Thursday, November 4, 2010

'India needs to be assertive about it's core interests with US'

There is plenty of hype and expectation that surrounds the India trip of Barack Obama, President of the United States of America. Senior diplomats have pointed out that India is now being taken seriously by the US since we have become a major economic force to reckon with and this trip by the President of the USA will be an important one.

However there are many other issues which India would look to address when Obama is in India. India’s biggest headache continues to be Pakistan and when Obama is in town, India would hope that the President makes a strong statement in this regard.
Satish Chandra, former Deputy National Security Advisor terms this trip as an important one and sees it as an opportunity to build a strong relationship between the two countries. In this chat with, Chandra speaks about the importance of this visit in the Indian perspective, but also adds that we must be assertive in certain issues so that our long term interests are fulfilled.

In my view this is an important visit. Indo-US relations are in a very good shape at the moment and this visit according to me is an opportunity to better those relations.

When the President of the US is in India, we should not just look at what we get from the US. The idea is to have a better understanding on issues that are critical to both nations. This would be a key factor during the visit of the US president.
Afghanistan according to me a key issue that needs to be addressed. The events in Afghanistan affect India directly. What we have been noticing is that when the US conducts its policy on Afghanistan, it does not consult India or even take our interests into consideration despite the fact that whatever happens there affects us. It is necessary that we be assertive and put our point across on this issue.
On the Pakistan issue, the current US policy is that they are giving billions of dollars to them to purchase arms. The general picture that we get is that these funds are being used for anti terror activities. But the truth is that these funds are being used to procure arms which in turn are being used against us. India would do well to address this issue during the visit by the President. The main point that we need to stress upon is that our core interest should be taken care of.
We need to make the US look at us with a different perspective too. Today they are looking at us due to our economic growth. The fact is that our infrastructure continues to be very third world and the truth is that it is the Infosys and Tatas which have put us on the map.

Obama comes to India in the backdrop of the 26/11 attack and the ongoing trial and the fact that most of the masterminds have not been arrested. Yes he will be expressing his solidarity with the victims of this attack. It is a PR exercise according to me, but I would add that it is important and a good one too. On this front I feel he is a very bright thinking president and should be commended for this effort.

However India must push the US to take a decision in this regard since most of the masterminds remain free. The Americans have not exercised their leverages with Pakistan. We need to raise this issue with the President behind closed doors. We need to convince them about the real threat and if the US decides to turn off the tap on Pakistan then I am sure that Pakistan will listen. The Americans currently don’t seem to be bothered about the export of terror from Pakistan to India and we must be assertive on this point and get the US to act on this.
There is also the David Headley issue. They say that they gave us advance information, but the fact is that they never named him. I don’t know the real reasons and it is being said that he was a double agent. However that should not have come in the way of sharing proper information and if the US considers India as a partner nation then nothing should have come in the way of giving us the information which all of us was very crucial.

The China issue is another aspect which ought to be discussed. India must realize that China is a far more important issue than Pakistan. On our own we need to manage our relations with China so that we are at ease. Currently we have seen China being very assertive and this is worrisome and poses many question marks. India and the US need to analyse this and remain in touch with each other and both nations must be alive to the possibility that the assertiveness of China could turn into aggressiveness. We need to cooperate with the US and discuss this issue. We know how China has broken into PoK and this shows the mind set of China which is becoming a dominant player in Pakistan and is using that country as a cat’s paw against us. Today Pakistan is being armed by two great powers and during the visit of the President, India needs to sensitise the Americans to our concerns and expect them to act upon it so that we are at ease.

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