Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nixon-Kissinger II

If you are a student of contemporary Indian history, you'd be familiar with the Nixon-Kissinger duo, and their attitudes towards India. While a lot of water has flown down the Mississippi and the Ganges since then, it looks like the wheel of time has come full circle again, giving us Nixon-Kissinger Part 2, also known as Obama-Clinton.

First, some history. Nixon and Kissinger, with no little help from Indira Gandhi, took Indo-US relations to their nadir. In their quest to get China on their side, against the Soviets, the duo looked the other side when Pakistan committed some of the worst abuses of human rights in the sub-continent, in what was then East-Pakistan. They formalized the US policy of preferring dictatorships over democracies, even when those dictatorships brutally supressed the mandate of democratic elections. In fact, Nixon offered to send the "Seventh fleet" carrier group into the Indian Ocean to pressurize India which intervened on the side of democracy. So bad was the deterioration in relations that the leaders of the countries couldn't even talk to each other without one calling the other a b***h.

The intervening years, the Kargil war, India's economic recovery and the Dubya-presidency had all contributed to healing the rift, but it looks like this is one wound the great black healer is going to rip open in his quest to heal other wounds.

Now, it is not wrong that the US has its own national interests in mind. But Obama in his nearly 6-month presidency hasn't made a single serious comment (and I'm ignoring platitudes like the praise he heaped on Moron) towards furthering Indo-US relations. He's made noises about getting India to sign the NPT and CTBT, has completely ignored the nuclear deal, brought back the hyphen between India and Pakistan, put pressure on India to start talking with Pakistan, made Bangalore the enemy in the outsourcing debate and in the latest of his antagonising statements, has opened the Kashmir bogey again. Not since the Nixon-Kissinger era have we seen such 'attacks'.

Will the relationship survive the Obama-Clinton foreign policy administration? I doubt it.

(Postscript: BTW, we had Ramachandra Guha, the author of "India after Gandhi" visit our lab and deliver a talk recently. Next in line are Sudha Murthy and Ramesh Ramanathan!)

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