x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Clinton in India

If India anticipated the just-completed five-day visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with uncertainty, it was largely because it shares the unusual distinction - along with Israel - of having viewed with sorrow George Bush's departure from the White House. As it turned out, Mrs Clinton was successful in allaying most of India's concerns.

If India anticipated the US secretary of state's visit with uncertainty it was largely because it shares the unusual distinction ? along with Israel ? of viewing with sorrow George Bush's departure from the White House. As it turned out, Hillary Clinton was successful in allaying most of India's concerns. "Her reassurances for New Delhi came in three parts," wrote James Lamont in The Financial Times. "First, she prioritised the fight against terrorism, staying in the Taj hotel in Mumbai which, only nine months ago, was the target of rampaging Islamist gunmen. Second, she addressed regional security in south Asia ? a priority of the Obama administration ? without insisting on a settlement for Kashmir, claimed and fought over by India and Pakistan. Third, she offered assistance in areas that New Delhi gives strategic priority: modernising its armed forces, energy security and its space programme. "The US will want something in return. "Behind the desire for India to be a global power is the wish that it speaks up more for its democratic freedoms and open society, and those of others. Talks over climate change, global trade, financial reform and nuclear non-proliferation are where that voice needs to be heard. "But for all the emollient words, the biggest reward for the US will be India's help in securing regional peace. That would be the prize of true 'friendship'." Writing for Time magazine, Madhur Singh said: "The big takeaways of Clinton's visit are three key agreements. The first is an 'end-use monitoring' agreement that allows the US to track arms supplied to India to ensure that they are not sold or otherwise given to third parties. This agreement, required by US law, enables US companies to sell hi-tech military equipment and technology to India, immediately benefiting Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which will be able to bid for contracts to supply 26 fighter jets to India for a $10 billion deal. "The second, a technical-safeguards agreement, will enable India to launch non-commercial satellites containing US components, while an agreement to set up a science-and-technology endowment fund will allow more co-operation in those fields. "In addition to the monetary boost for US businesses and the ego boost for India, a 'strategic dialogue' encompassing a range of subjects ? from soft issues like education to thorny ones such as climate change, terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation ? was announced. Clinton's speeches and interviews to the local media were full of references to India's greater role on the global stage. '[I] consider India not just a regional but global power,' she told an Indian news channel on July 18, the day after she arrived in Mumbai. The irony of that statement was not lost on India's foreign policy set, given that the country's recent attempts to take a leadership role in international affairs, such as leading developing nations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and in climate-change negotiations, has led it on a path of friction with the US. "In fact, the Indian Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, broke away from the saccharine tone of most of Clinton's meetings with the country's leaders by bluntly reiterating India's position that it would not accept binding emissions cuts. 'There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have been among the lowest emitters per capita, face to actually reduce emissions,' Ramesh said to Clinton at a conference on climate change in Gurgaon, near New Delhi, on July 19. 'And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours.' Clinton defused the situation by asserting that the US would not take any step to limit India's economic growth." In World Politics Review, Neeta Lal wrote: "As expected, Clinton's agenda covered the five pillars of the Indo-US relationship: defence co-operation, science and technology, energy and climate change, education and trade. But the visit left the impression that it was crafted to be more symbolic than substantial, leading many to believe that Clinton was working according to a script, rather than as a much-vaunted 'friend of India'. "From her decision to kick off her trip in Mumbai, rather than the national capital of New Delhi, to her stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel where Pakistani terrorists had unleashed terror last year to her politically correct declarations about climate control, Pakistan and terrorism, Clinton presented India with a friendly but unrelenting interlocutor on many counts. "Not that she was lacking in charm. The secretary met with social activists championing the emancipation of Indian women, captains of industry who have fast-tracked India's economic growth, and groups of students in Delhi. "But the most crucial element of bilateral exchange on which India needed reassurance ? ie, strong words on Pakistani support for terror against India ? were missing. To the contrary, Clinton made it clear that Washington is pretty pleased with Pakistan's performance in the 'war on terror,' and that the primary American concern is the Pakistani nuclear inventory, secure for now." Meanwhile, shortly before Mrs Clinton's departure the media spotlight suddenly shifted to a courtroom drama in Mumbai when Mohammad Ajmal Amir "Kasab" reversed his plea and confessed to his role in the Mumbai attacks. "The sole surviving gunman in last year's Mumbai terror attacks may have sealed his fate with a dramatic courtroom confession Monday, but Pakistan's determination and ability to dismantle the group that plotted the assault remains an open question," The Wall Street Journal reported. "Pakistan, after initially denying that any of its citizens took part in the assault that left more than 170 people dead, has in the past six months sought to convince India and the US that it is doing everything in its power to shut down the group thought to be responsible, Lashkar-i-Taiba. "'The Pakistani nation and its government fully understand the enormity of the challenge,' said Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari. 'This nation has paid in blood for its commitment against terrorism.' "Five of the alleged plotters arrested in Pakistan weeks after the attack are to go on trial in the coming days. Pakistani officials say prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani earlier this month gave his Indian counterpart a dossier detailing what Islamabad knows about Lashkar's involvement in the attack."

pwoodward@thenational.ae