The Rediff Special/ J N Dixit
Indo-US ties: Benign neglect and continued pressure?
In this article, exclusive to Rediff On The NeT, former foreign secretary J N Dixit
examines the prospects for Indo-US relations during President Clinton's second term in office.
William Jefferson Clinton's second inaugural speech referred only
marginally and at the macro-level to foreign policy. There were
no country-specific, region-specific or issue-specific elaborations
regarding the US's external intentions in this first policy statement
commencing his second Presidential term. In a manner, Indo-US
relations receded to the back burner in the governmental establishments
of both India and the US since the Indian veto on the CTBT at
the committee on disarmament last autumn and the political skirmishes
which followed between the two countries at Washington, New Delhi
and New York.
While a certain forward momentum was maintained
in bilateral economic relations, contradictions in the economic
policies of our United Front government and the resulting
adulations of 'now we will, now we won't' regarding the processes
of modernisation and liberalisation of the Indian economy have
not helped matters much. An ambience of staticity permeated Indo-US
relations towards the end of 1996. The focus of attention in the
United States being on the Presidential election was also a contributing
Now that Clinton has assumed charge and recruited his now foreign
policy team and also that the new secretary of state has pronounced
on her foreign policy orientations, it is time to examine the prospects
of Indo-US relations. One is not presuming to indulge in political
astrology, but speculating on the possibilities for which India will
have to plan is pertinent.
First, some presumptions based on the
Clinton in his second term may show
a little more interest in foreign policy and in regions where
his attention was not focussed (previously) due to the foreign
policy experience that he has gained during the first term.
Secondly, continuity in office uninhibited by considerations of having to
face another election will make him more purposive about achieving
the objectives of maintaining the US's global superiority. Safeguarding
US economic interests and maintaining the US's technological domination
of the world. Non-proliferation, missile control and related issues
will have a high priority on his agenda.
Third, the US legislature
will continue to be dominated by the Republicans at least during
the first half of Clinton's second term. With Senator Helms as
the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee one should
expect the US Congress orienting the Clinton administration more
intensely towards as 'America first' policy.
Fourth, in Madeleine
Albright, the country will find a more assertive and activist
secretary of state who makes no bones about her convinction that
the global order must conform to the US's ideologies, objectives
and interests. It is also to be noted that the developing parts
of the world, Asia and India perhaps do not interest her very
much. Only China appears on her radar screen.
Fifth, the knowledgeable (?)
Ms Robin Raphel has been replaced as assistant secretary for South
Asian Affairs by Rick Inderfurth who used to be Albright's deputy
at the UN. General information is that he does not have
much experience regarding South Asia. So, would India face a policy
of benign neglect combined with selective pressure being applied
on us on issues like non-proliferation?
Some signals from the
Indian ambassador in Washington, Naresh Chandra, indicate that this
may not critically be the case. In a public review of Indo-US
relations which he undertook on January 24, Chandra indicated
that Clinton is likely to visit India some time between August
1997 and August 1998. If the visit takes place, it will certainly
focus US attention on India. The visit would be the first by
a US president after a gap of nearly 20 years since President
Chandra also gave the assessment that the new
national security adviser to Clinton,
Sandy Berger, has shown an interest in India and that he might
visit us during this year. Equally significant is the appointment
of Thomas Pickering as under secretary of state for political
affairs in Peter Tarnoff's place. Pickering was ambassador in
New Delhi in 1993 and is therefore aware of Indian interests and
He, along with Strobe Talbott as deputy secretary of
state, might balance Madeleine Albright's lack of interest in
South Asia. William Cohen, the new defence secretary, according
to preliminary assessment, has strategic perceptions underlining
the importance of South Asia as a geo-political factor affecting
US economic and security interests. This may result in continuity
in Indo-US defence co-operation despite its limited scope.
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