A Cracker of a Visit, But will The Sparkle Last?
Amb Kanwal Sibal

President Obama’s much heralded visit to India produced mixed results. The inordinate coverage given to the visit has exaggerated the positives and obscured some deficient outcomes.

On the credit side, we can list a “forward looking” US position on our UN Security Council permanent membership, lifting of sanctions on Indian organisations(barring BARC) remaining on the US Entity List, intended easing of export controls on transfers of high and dual use technologies to India, support for phased Indian membership of global non-proliferation and technolgy control regimes and intensified counter-terrorism cooperation with a new Homeland Security Dialogue. These steps would help strengthen the India-US strategic partnership and facilitate India’s rise as a global power.

This positive movement should, however, be seen in perspective. US suport for our UNSC permanent membership is anemic, and the time horizon is long. Obama’s homily on increased power coming with increased responsibility suggests that tIndia would be under test in the years ahead for its readiness to align its policies with those of the US. His gratuitous comment on India’s reticence to agitate human rights issues internationally points to dificulties ahead in harmonizing US and Indian global visions, necessary for a veritable strategic partnership. Removing Indian organisations from the US Entity List eliminates a total ban on dealings with them, even for non-licensable items, but would not do away with the licensing process, which will remain highly restrictive. Easing US export controls for us will be accompanied by intrusive demands on upgrading our own system of export controls. Our membership of NSG and MTCR will require an “evolution” of regime membership criteria and will not come quickly, besides saddling India with additional demands on the export control front, beyond those required for securing the India-US nuclear deal.

On Pakistan and terrorism, Obama gave us nothing. Asking Pakistan to bring those responsible for the Mumbai carnage to justice is repeating a two year old US position. Calling for elimination of safe havens in Pakistan should be read in the Afghan context, not that of India-Pakistan, as Indian insurgents are not operating from such “havens” against India, as in the case of Ulfa in Bangladesh; it is the Pakistani terrorists who are operating from their home base against India. The joint statement mentions the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan with reference only to Afghanistan by name, and India is subsumed under “regional and global security”. Reiterating to us that none other than India has interest in a stable and prosperous Pakistan- a US arms recipient country determined to destabilize us- adds insult to injury.

Closer India-US ties are desirable, but we should be lucid in our judgment and realistic in our expectations.

Kanwal Sibal is former Foreign Secretary
Published in Asian Age dated November 14, 2010

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