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'A reset in India-US ties is under way'

By M K Bhadrakumar
November 08, 2010 00:17 IST
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Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar, the former diplomat and strategic thinker, in a conversation with's Sheela Bhatt, sums up the highlights of Day 2 of President Barack Obama's visit to India:

The highlight of the second day was undoubtedly the 40-minute one-on-one between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Obama late on Sunday evening. We will need to await indications of what would have transpired at the formal press conference on Monday at Hyderabad House.

I repeat, it seems to me that President Obama may take a more open stance supportive of India's claim to permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The townhall meeting in Mumbai was indeed vintage Obama. His profound intellectual capability and humanism was on full display.

Personally speaking, I liked his reply to the question on Gandhiji the best. Obama's reply was honest, deeply introspective and reflective of his great admiration for Gandhiji.

How many of our politicians could be so self-critical as Obama was?

In substantive political terms, what emerged is the high importance that the US places on its long-term partnership with Pakistan and Obama's open acknowledgement of it in front of an Indian audience.

He indicated that in order for India to be an effective global player India needs to normalise its ties with Pakistan. What he didn't say was that AfPak is a serious contradiction in India-US ties and it can be resolved only if the India-Pakistan

differences are resolved.

Obama was extremely sensitive about the resonance of his words in Islamabad -- and Rawalpindi -- and chose his words very carefully, drawing a distinction between the Pakistani government and extremists or terrorists. He was not prepared to be even remotely critical of Pakistan.

Admittedly, there is a serious divergence here between the Indian and US perceptions.

Again for regional security, it was of high significance that Obama signalled the US intention to have a long-term military presence in Afghanistan. It also means a NATO presence in the region. It further means that the Pakistani military will continue to be the US's main interlocutor in Pakistan for the foreseeable future.

Which, of course, has deep significance for India as there is no shred of evidence that the Pakistani military is prepared to shed its 'India-centric' security doctrines.

What is important, however, is that the overall India-US relationship is entering a mature phase where the two countries can have different perceptions or specific interests with regard to regional or global issues and can still talk about an enduring economic partnership to mutual benefit.

I sum the second day as further evidence that a 'reset' in the India-US ties is well under way.

ALSO READ: Ambassador T P Sreenivasan on Day 2 of the visit

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M K Bhadrakumar
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