India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

India, U.S. build ties, with an eye on China

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In the end, Pakistan wasn't the unspoken elephant in the room when U.S. President Barack Obama sat down for talks with Indian leaders. Far from tip-toeing around India's Pakistan problem which complicates America's own troubled war there and in Afghanistan, Obama spoke clearly and squarely.

Safe havens for militants in Pakistan wouldn't be tolerated, he said, in what was music to Indian ears. But he also left nobody in doubt Washington wanted India to improve ties with Pakistan, saying New Delhi had the greatest stake in the troubled neighbour's stability.

But the one elephant that the leaders of India and the United States didn't name but which was written all over the flurry of announcements made during the three-day trip was China. Beginning with the headline-grabbing endorsement of India's bid for a permanent place on the U.N. Security Council to maritime cooperation and a surprise partnership to promote food security in Africa, the United States seems to have gone the extra mile to bolster New Delhi's credentials as a global player.

The one country that would be watching this most closely is China where some would see America's deepening ties with India, a continent-size country with a billion-plus people, as aimed at countering its rise.

B.Raman, a  former head of India's Research and Analysis wing, writes that the announcement by India and the United States  to work together for stability in the Indian Ocean region as well as the Pacific  will draw concern in Beijing, which has its own fears of U.S. encirclement.

Could Obama’s loss be India’s gain?

As the pundits predicted, India will have the inauspicious honour of being the first country to host U.S. President Barack Obama following the largest shift in public support away from an incumbent President’s party in over 60 years.
U.S. President Barack Obama attends a DNC Moving America Forward Rally at Cleveland State University in Ohio, October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing

But if the results show a clear message of dissatisfaction at Washington from U.S. voters, the fallout once the dust settles on Capitol Hill could well result in good news for India.

Here are three ways that a shift in Washington politics could play into India’s interests:

India votes for Obama as storm clouds gather at home

INDIAU.S. President Barack Obama is facing a storm of voter discontent but in India where he travels three days after this week’s huge congressional elections, he’s already a winner. More than seven out of 10 Indians endorse his leadership, saying they believe he will do the right thing in world affairs, a Pew poll released in late October showed.

Contrast that with his approval ratings at home just as he heads into the critical midterm election. More people disapprove of his job performance (47 percent) than the number who approve (45 percent), according to the latest CBS news/New York Times opinion poll.

It’s not just Obama who gets the thumbs-up. Indians are generally well-disposed toward America even when the rest of the world is less inclined to. According to the Pew poll, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) express a favourable opinion of the U.S., although this is down from 76 percent last year. By contrast, only 51 percent Indians  rate long-time ally Russia favourably, and even fewer feel this way about the EU (36 percent) or China (34 percent).  Indeed, Indians don’t even share the common belief that the United States has increasingly been acting on its own. Some (83 percent) said the U.S. takes the interests of countries like India into account when it makes foreign policy decisions — the highest percentage among the 21 nations surveyed outside the U.S.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Will Obama refer to Kashmir in public in India?

fayazaward2Will President Barack Obama make some public remarks on Kashmir during his trip to India next month?

At a White House press briefing, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes refused to be pinned down on specifics,  beyond saying that the United States would continue to express support for India and Pakistan to pursue talks.

"I wouldn’t -- I don't want to get into prefacing with precision what his comments are, in part because he’ll be answering a lot of questions there in the town hall and press conference and we haven’t -- we’re still working through his remarks on certain things," he said.

Lauding defeat of US anti-outsourcing bill premature

The Senate might have quashed Democrat plans to force U.S. firms to produce jobs and profits at home, rather than overseas, but India Inc is wrong to think the danger has passed.Indian employees at a call centre provide service support to international customers in Bangalore March 17, 2004. REUTERS/Sherwin Crasto/Files

Over the past few weeks, India’s newspapers have been littered with stories surrounding U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments on curbing outsourcing, and India Inc’s gross indignation at the White House’s intentions.

No surprise, then, to see bullish headlines following the Senate vote that effectively ended legislation dubbed the Creating American Jobs and End Offshoring Act. ‘India Inc cheers defeat of anti-outsourcing bill in US‘, ran one leading daily, while another led with ‘Anti-outsourcing Bill dies a quiet death in the US‘. Death is wide of the mark.

from Afghan Journal:

WikiLeaks: shaking the foundations of U.S. policy toward Pakistan

A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Chaman in Pakistan's Balochistan province, along the Afghan border on May 19, 2010.

A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Chaman in Pakistan's Balochistan province, along the Afghan border on May 19, 2010.

On the face of it, you could ask what's new about the latest disclosures of Pakistani involvement in the Taliban insurgency while accepting massive U.S. aid to fight Islamic militancy of all hues. Hasn't this been known all along -- something that a succession of top U.S. officials and military leaders have often said, sometimes  couched in diplomatic speech and sometimes rather clearly?

It was only last week that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there must be somebody in the Pakistani government who knew Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Coming from America's top diplomat, it couldn't be more blunt.

India and the U.S. – strategic or symbolic partners?

With initial euphoria over last week’s U.S.-India talks on the wane, it may be time to take a long, hard look at what New  Delhi actually gained from the first official “strategic dialogue” between the two sides.

The flags of India and the United States are seen before a bilateral meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon during the Shangri-La Dialogue Asia Security Summit in Singapore June 4, 2010. REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/PoolThe timing was just right as Washington implements its AfPak plan, the correct gestures were made and U.S. officials went out of their way to convince the Indian media all was fine between the world’s two biggest democracies.

And while it is true that India-U.S. relations are now at their best, the June 2 talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna showed that though the two may have made progress on important but second-tier issues such as trade, agriculture and technology, there remains a disconnect on a strategic level.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On U.S., India and Pakistan: maybe some transparency would help

biden karzaiAccording to the Wall Street Journal, "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," it says.

It also says there is a debate within the U.S. administration over how far to push India to improve relations with Pakistan, with the Pentagon lobbying for more pressure on New Delhi and the State Department resisting, arguing this could backfire.

from Russell Boyce:

Don’t drink the water, even if there is any to drink (Update)

One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to  residents of a housing block in Jakarta.  The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.

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Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day.     REUTERS/Beawiharta

Today, March 22 is World Water Day and Reuters photographers in Asia were given an open brief to shoot feature pictures to illustrate it.  The only requirement I asked of them is that they included in the captions, the fact that while the Earth is literally covered in water, more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. At the same time in China 50 million people are facing drought conditions and water shortages and the two stories seemed to tie in with one another.

from Afghan Journal:

Keeping India out of Afghanistan

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in the United States for the first official state visit by any foreign leader since President Barack Obama took office this year. While the atmospherics are right, and the two leaders probably won't be looking as stilted as Obama and China's President Hu Jintao appeared to be during Obama's trip last week (for the Indians are rarely short on conversation), there is a sense of unease.

And much of it has to do with AFPAK - the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan which is very nearly at the top of Obama's foreign policy agenda and one that some fear may eventually consume the rest of his presidency. America's ally Pakistan worries about India's expanding assistance and links to Afghanistan, seeing it as part of a strategy to encircle it from the rear.  Ordinarily, Pakistani noises wouldn't bother India as much, but for signs that the Obama administration has begun to adopt those concerns as its own in its desperate search for a solution, as Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek.

And that is producing a "perverse view" of the region, he says adding it was a bit strange that India was being criticised for its influence in Afghanistan. India is the hegemon in South Asia, with a GDP 100 times that of Afghanistan and it was only natural that as Afghanistan opened itself up following the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, its cuisine, movies and money would flow into the country. The whole criticism about India,  Zakaria says, is a little bit like saying the United States has had growing influence  in Mexico over the last few decades and should be penalised for it.USA/

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