April 5, 2010Af-PakForeign AffairsIndiaObamaSecurityUnited States

Obama’s insensitivity to India’s interests

…must be appropriately addressed

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

[Can] Mr Obama really allow US-India relations to backslide into the mutual neglect last seen during the Cold War?” Sumit Ganguly wrote in the Wall Street Journal three weeks ago, We may be about to find out.” Dr Ganguly warned the Obama administration that insensitivity to India’s interests will allow other powers to step into the breach”. He repeated the warning in Newsweek, adding that India is annoyed by Obama.

Today the WSJ reports:

President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration’s efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.

The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents.[WSJ]The most polite thing that can be said is that Mr Obama made a stupid mistake. He appears to have learnt nothing from the unfortunate situation Richard Holbrooke, his special representative to the Af-Pak region, finds himself in.

While Mr Obama’s decision might well have been due to the political resultant of the interests of the various arms of the US government, it is consistent with his approach of demonstrating insensitivity to the interests of existing and potential allies in order to appease adversaries. This will be costly. President Hamid Karzai is providing the first taste of the consequences of such an approach. More will follow. (See, for instance, Jennifer Rubin’s post at Commentary magazine’s blog)

Mr Obama has put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a political difficult position. The news of the White House directive” making it into the public domain will, paradoxically, severely damage any prospect of New Delhi making things easier for the United States, even when such actions might be in India’s own interests. Who can say that Mr Obama doesn’t deserve to solely rely on partners such as the Pakistani army to help him win what is already called Obama’s War”? Even Mr Karzai is returning favour by putting distance between himself and the United States.

So far, India’s signals of displeasure and annoyance have been quiet and behind the scenes. It is time to raise the temperature. Given that the UPA government in introducing some very important legislation in the current session of parliament, Dr Singh would do well to stay in New Delhi to see it through, leaving it to the foreign minister to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, on his behalf. And since the bilateral relationship is mature and everything, New Delhi could let it be known that there’s no real hurry for Mr Obama to visit India.

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