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'Obama is not going to mollycoddle Pakistan any longer'

By Sheela Bhatt
November 12, 2010 12:02 IST
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Naresh Chandra, India's former ambassador to the US and head of the National Security Advisory Board, explains the positives from the Obama visit in a conversation with's Sheela Bhatt.

Has the Obama visit gone well from India's point of view?

India's expectations were very high, particularly in the defence sector, but as a neutral observer, I think the visit went very well for Indo-US relations.

Normally, in such visits our expectations would be high, but the US has to balance its priorities, because they affect many nations.

I think President Obama did as much as he could. The agreement on high-technology relaxation (for the Indian Space Research Organisation, Defence Research and Development Organisation etc) is great progress.

What is the central message that has emerged?

The broader message is that we saw a commitment from the American State and not just from an administration, which come and go, for an abiding and strong relationship with India.

Obama's visit has crystallised this relationship for the world.

Notwithstanding the temporary ups and downs, it has shown a general trend, where India and the US can work together in a positive way.

Many people have commented that Obama's support for India's UNSC (United Nations Security Council) bid is qualified support and not whole-hearted. How do you read it?

The US is not the final arbiter of the Security Council's reforms. We unduly give the US the status of a superpower. We then expect that the US will not only do our bidding but also lead it (the reforms) to a conclusion that is in our interests. This is a very tall order.

Obama has moved the US from an ambivalent position to a clear position, which means that when the time comes he has assured that the American vote will be in India's favour.

Going by the Americans's previous commitment (the India-US civilian nuclear agreement), they really work at it.

It is not a blind move by the US. Obama can't bring the UN reforms on course by himself because there are other powerful players like China, Russia and the European Union.

It is not that the US is under the UN's control, but what he has said is that when the time is right to extend support, they will support India's inclusion in the UNSC.

Any other wording would have appeared very arrogant and ambitious.

During his speech to Parliament, could Obama have avoided referring to India's shying away from its responsibility to protect democracy?

That would have meant that he was being purely diplomatic on this trip. The point Obama made was that India is a mature nation;

He wanted India to take its responsibilities (as a democracy) seriously.

Since our economy is improving every month and we want international attention then we have to do things for other countries.

Obama wants us to play a positive role. We have to see the statement in that way.

Our thinking is still colonial. We can't take a compliment in the right spirit.

The US is recognising our development and wants us to contribute to human welfare on the international stage. Why do we look for a trick in it?

Are we going to follow everything he has said? His speech had some pieces of advice. It's not an order.

What did you dislike most about Obama's visit?

Obama has other challenges and priorities. He has the challenge of dealing with a sagging economy at home. He has to deal with Af-Pak and with China. He can't come to India and pretend that rest of the world doesn't exist.

When Obama addressed Parliament there are others listening too. It was not a close-door session. When Obama speaks, the whole world is listening. He has to speak in context.

How will China view Obama's India trip?

China will take notice of it. They will regard it as a high priority.

The Chinese will think that in the future China-India-US relations should become stronger. They will take note of Indo-US ties. They will notice that if they push too hard or don't take India's concerns on board then it will bring India and the US closer.

How would Pakistan assess the Obama visit?

Pakistan wanted that Obama should not say too much. They will see it in two ways. What Obama has said in public and what message emerged at the end of the trip. Obama is not going to mollycoddle Pakistan any longer.

He has sternly warned Pakistan to perform. The message is, 'Look, we have not embarrassed you, but now you have to perform.'

He has sent a very calculated message to Pakistan from India.

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