India Insight

U.S. consulate for sale, in India’s daily paper

For sale: a spacious, well-built Mumbai townhouse with beautiful views, well-heeled neighbours and one considerate, well-respected former owner.

Lodged between an advert for hair loss treatment and an article on illicit after-hours drinking in India’s commercial hub, the U.S. government consulate in Mumbai invited bids for its two consulate properties in Tuesday’s Times of India newspaper.

The consulate building, located at a much sought-after address in the exclusive Breach Candy neighbourhood in the south of the city, has long been outgrown by its inhabitants, who already have a new location in Mumbai’s northern business district.

But a buyer has been elusive. Enter the world’s most-read English language daily.

“For sale,” read the red text of the advert on page 5 of the newspaper, “The American Consulate Properties”.

Mistrust, Afghan insecurity loom over Indo-Pak talks

By Annie Banerji

As India and Pakistan begin diplomatic talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, Pew Research Centre published a survey this week that shows Pakistanis are strongly critical of India and the United States as well.

Even though there has been a slew of attacks by the Taliban on Pakistani targets since Osama bin Laden’s killing in May, the Pew Research publication illustrates that three in four Pakistanis find India a greater threat than extremist groups.

In similar fashion, 65 percent of Indians expressed an unfavourable view of Pakistan, seeing it as a bigger threat than the LeT, an active militant Islamic organisation operating mainly from Pakistan and Maoist militants operating in India.

Is India really the world’s fifth most powerful country?

India is the world’s fifth most powerful country, according to a New Delhi-authored national security document, the Times of India reported on Wednesday, as Indian analysts placed the emerging nation above major European powers.

Outranking traditional global powers such as the UK, France and Germany, India’s ballooning population, defense capabilities and economic clout were cited as reasons for its position behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in India’s National Security Annual Review 2010, which will be officially released by the country’s foreign ministry next week.

Its statistical foundations in terms of population numbers and GDP aside — in terms of purchasing power parity, it should be noted — India’s experience of wielding power on the global stage of late, boosted by its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, has been less encouraging.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, a deterrent against India, but also United States ?

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Pakistan's nuclear weapons have been conceived and developed as a deterrent against mighty neighbour India, more so now when its traditional rival has added economic heft to its military muscle. But Islamabad may also be holding onto its nuclear arsenal  to deter an even more powerful challenge, which to its mind, comes  from the United States, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who led President Barack Obama's 2009 policy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan and the United States are allies in the war against militancy, but ties have been so troubled in recent years that  some in Pakistan believe that the risk of a conflict cannot be dismissed altogether and that the bomb may well be the country's  only hedge against an America that looks less a friend and more a hostile power.

Last year  the Obama administration said there could be consequences if the next attack in the West were to be traced backed to Pakistan, probably the North Waziristan hub of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups.No nation can ignore a warning as chilling as that, and it is reasonable to expect the Pakistan military to do what it can to defend itself.

With friends like these … WikiLeaks underlines fragile US-India ties

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For all the talk of India’s increasingly strong partnership with the United States, what the latest WikiLeaks documents published in The Hindu show are far slower, foot-dragging ties with a suspicious Delhi in one corner and a frustrated Washington in the other struggling to find common ground and trust.

The really worrying thing is that these reports come with a time lag of at least a year, before corruption scandals and policy stagnation effectively paralysed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s gushing words for an “emerged” India last year, one wonders if now the level of U.S.  complaints have reached a crescendo.

The WikiLeaks reports published have so far sparked one political bombshell – the cash for votes scandal as the ruling Congress party pushed through a 2008 confidence vote. But other reports on Monday highlight more mundane, but deep-seated irritants.

Wikileaks cash for votes allegations implicate India’s Congress

India’s ruling Congress party offered cash for votes to pass a crucial 2008 confidence vote in parliament, a secret U.S. state cable released on Thursday said, embroiling Manmohan Singh’s beleaguered government in yet another corruption scandal that risks further opposition attacks on the graft-smeared coalition. File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking to the media after his government won a vote of confidence in parliament in New Delhi July 22, 2008. REUTERS/B Mathur

File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking to the media after his government won a vote of confidence in parliament in New Delhi July 22, 2008. REUTERS/B Mathur

The secret U.S. state department cable obtained by WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu newspaper on Thursday details a conversation between a senior Congress party member and a U.S. Embassy official surrounding the payment of almost $9 million by a government facing a crucial confidence vote to members of a regional political party to secure their support.

U.S. questions India’s military response abilities

WikiLeaks’ secret U.S. cable dump exposed the first controversial remarks about India on Wednesday, when a cable published by the Guardian described American belittling of India’s ‘Cold Start’ military retaliation plan against Pakistan.
U.S. ambassador to India Tim Roemer (R) talks with security personnel after his meeting with the Indian foreign ministry officials in New Delhi  REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe
The Cold Start is a much vaunted doctrine to rebuff any Pakistani aggression by a massive military attack across the border within 72 hours of any attack from its neighbour.

After India and the U.S. were spared any serious embarrassment in the first two days of WikiLeak’s staggered release of secret U.S. cables, save an outspoken remark from Hillary Clinton about India’s inflated global ambitions, the secret cable from U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer states that it is unlikely that India would ever enact the planned retribution strategy, and the chances of success would be questionable if so, in a cutting critique of New Delhi’s military might.

The February 16, 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, classified by Roemer and released by WikiLeaks, describes India’s ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ as “a mixture of myth and reality.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Wikileaks on Pakistan

iran pakistanIn the State Department cables released by Wikileaks and so far reported, the most eye-catching as far as Pakistan is concerned is a row with Washington over nuclear fuel.

According to the New York Times, the cables show:

"A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”

The Pakistan Army is deeply sensitive about any questions on the safety of its nuclear weapons.  The country is also often awash with conspiracy theories accusing the Americans of harbouring secret plans to dismantle the nuclear weapons.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Between the lines: Obama’s comments on Kashmir

nubra reducedPresident Barack Obama's words on relations with Pakistan were always going to be carefully scripted during his visit to India, where even to say the word "Kashmir"  aloud in public can raise jitters about U.S. interference in what New Delhi sees as a bilateral dispute.

So first up, here's what he had to say during a news conference in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in response to a question about what role the United States could play in resolving the Kashmir dispute (NDTV has the video).

"With respect to Kashmir, obviously this is a long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan; as I said yesterday, I believe that both Pakistan and India have an interest in reducing tensions between the two countries. The United States cannot impose a solution to these problems but I have indicated to Prime Minister Singh that we are happy to play any role that the parties think is appropriate in reducing these tensions. That's in the interests of the region; it is in the interests of the two countries involved and it is in the interests of the United States of America.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s Zardari in China; nuclear deal in grasp

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is in China this week, making good his promise to visit the "all weather ally" every three months. During his previous trips, his hosts have sent him off to the provinces to see for himself the booming growth there, but this trip may turn out be a lot more productive.

Zardari  may well return with a firm plan by China to build two reactors at Pakistan's Chashma nuclear plant, as my colleague in Beijing  reports in this article, overriding concern in Washington, New Delhi and other capitals that this undermined global non-proliferation objectives.

It's a bit of a nuclear poker going on in the region and Afghanistan as the new battleground between the regional players cannot remain untouched.

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