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Visit of Hillary Clinton to India

The following comments were recorded by me separately in a group discussion through the Internet on the just-ended visit of Mrs.Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to India (July 17 to 21,2009):

Whenever US leaders visit India, the issues which figure in private conversations and public interactions, fall into three categories:

(a) Issues of global interest such as non-proliferation, climate, trade etc.

(b) Issues having a bearing on Indo-Pakistan relations such as Pakistani action against terrorism, Indo-Pak dialogue etc.

(c) China— more indirectly than directly

2.The impression I have is that while Mrs.Hillary Clinton was eloquent and forthcoming on the first two categories mentioned above, she controlled her eloquence on China. She was careful not to create any misunderstanding in the US relations with China. The role of the Indian Defence Ministry in her official engagements was marginal..

3. I notice that from New Delhi she has flown to Phuket to attend the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting and the meeting of the ARF. Her Indian engagements were coupled with her ASEAN/ARF engagements. She is going to sign at Phuket the ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, which successive US administrations had refrained from signing for nearly two decades. One of its three principles is non-interference in the internal affairs of the countries of the ASEAN region. Among other reasons for the reluctance of the previous administrations to sign it was the concern that it could inhibit their activist role in Myanmar.The Obama Administration has decided to sign it

4.The impression I have is that whereas the Pentagon continues to attach the same importance to the US relations with India as it did under Bush, there is a growing lack of convergence between the State Department and the Pentagon on the importance of the relations with India. In Pentagon, it is more action than words. In the State Department, it is more words than action.

5.For years, different US Administrations had been pressing New Delhi to allow the US to send a mission to Arunachal Pradesh to look for the remains of US Air Force personnel who went missing during the Second World War. All the previous Indian Governments had rejected the US request. There was a change of policy when Bush became the President. As an Indian gesture to Bush’s gesture to India on various issues, the Government of India accepted the US request for a search in Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian gesture also had a China-related angle—-to indirectly get the US endorsement of the status quo in Arunachal Pradesh, which China has been challenging. A mission from the US came and visited Arunachal Pradesh when Bush was the President. The Obama Administration seems to be going slow on the follow-up. Why?

(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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