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Expectations from Manmhan Singh's Visit to US

The following are the comments sent by me on the subject mentioned above in response to a query from a US think-tank:

How to address a complex mix of interests, concerns and policy preoccupations in a manner that will retain the US influence in the Af-Pak region without jeopardising the beginnings of its strategic presence and influence in India? That is the question that will be before Obama and his advisers during their talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They have not found an answer to this dilemma and hence the spotlight more on style than on substance.

Efforts will be made to make India amenable to a resumption of the composite dialogue with Pakistan and to be more responsive to Pakistani concerns relating to Afghanistan.Will Obama use a promise of US support for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council as a lollipop in return for Indian gestures to Pakistan?

The limitations on the US ability and willingness to make Pakistan address India’s concerns on terrorism have been amply demonstrated time and again. To expect that Manmohan Singh will respond to US entreaties in the absence of a demonstrated US ability to make Pakistan act may be unrealistic.

Common concerns over China brought India and the US together under the Bush Administration. With Obama projecting China as a benign power and not as a power to be concerned about, China will no longer be a uniting factor between the two countries.

There is considerable confusion about Obama in India. He has clearly accorded a pre-eminent role to China not only in the rest of Asia, but even in South Asia. He is reluctant to act against Pakistan as vigorously as India would like him to.India is still keeping its fingers crossed as to whether he would keep up his promise to adhere to the commitments made by the Bush Administration on civil nuclear co-operation and transfer of dual-use technology.

During Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in July,2005, Bush managed to establish an excellent personal chemistry with him, which has served well the Indo-US relations.Obama’s interactions with his foreign interlocutors have clearly brought out his inability to establish such personal chemistry. Indian policy-makers and analysts have, therefore been cautious in their expectations from the visit.

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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