Ex-US envoy warns of India-US ties’ downturn, sounds CTBT alert

May 5th, 2009 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) Warning of a downturn in India-US relations in the short term, former US ambassador Robert D. Blackwill Tuesday said New Delhi may face pressure from the Obama administration over resolving the Kashmir issue and on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Blackwill also underlined that the Obama administration’s current preoccupation with Pakistan and China have led to the “downgrading” of India in Washington’s strategic calculations.

“It will take very hard work and skilful diplomacy from both governments to keep the US-India relationship on its current plateau and to avoid a steady decline in our bilateral ties,” the former US envoy said.

Blackwill was optimistic about the long-term prospects for US-India relationship, but he underlined that “in the immediate future, bilateral ties are likely to be more problematic than we have seen in recent years.”

“Although it is certainly early days, there are preliminary indications that the Obama administration has a different policy orientation towards India. First, it is not clear that the Obama administration has the same preoccupation with the rise of Chinese power and India’s balancing role in it,” Blackwill said.

“Rather, Washington is now naturally focused on US-China economic relations, the G-2 as some analysts have named it,” he said in a speech entitled “The Future of India-US Relations.”

“So China today appears, at least to me, to be on a substantially higher plane in US diplomacy than India which seems to have been downgraded in the administration’s strategic calculations,” he pointed out.

Blackwill, who is currently associated with RAND Corporation, an influential global think tank, also pointed out the lack of communication and close relationships between the policy makers in Washington and in New Delhi.

Blackwill, who also served as Deputy National Security Adviser in the George Bush administration, singled out differing perceptions on Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Iran, civil nuclear cooperation, CTBT, climate change, India’s nuclear weapons and protectionism as some of key problematical issues which could cause “a variety of problems in the US-India relationship in the next months and years.”

Blackwill, who served as the US ambassador to India 2001-03, pointed out that the US’ preoccupation with Pakistan seems “in practical terms to (be) re-hyphenating the US-India relationship, leading the administration to see India largely through the lens of deeply disturbing developments in Pakistan, at the expense of a focus on strategic cooperation writ large between Washington and New Delhi.

“This will produce an understandable and growing US interest in trying to reduce tensions in the India-Pakistan relationship, not least because Islamabad will speciously argue that tensions with India and the Kashmir dispute are preventing it from moving robustly against the Islamic terrorists within their midst.”

“So India may well encounter eventual US pressure on the subject of Kashmir,” Blackwill said.

India-US relations had been de-hyphenated during the previous George Bush administration.

Blackwill also alerted India about a hawkish posture by the Obama administration over signing the CTBT and Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

“Neither of these appears to be acceptable to the Indian government today,” he said. “The US should treat India as a nuclear weapons state. Any American backsliding in this regard would produce a very strong reaction from New Delhi,” he warned.

Blackwill also advised the next Indian government should launch “an intensive diplomatic offensive” to build stronger ties with Washington.

“I would hope that the next government would launch a very intense diplomatic offensive to build stronger ties. American behaviour will affect you more than your behaviour will affect us,” he said when asked about the perceived cooling off of ties during the first 100 days of the Obama administration.

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