India-US relations on upward trajectory: Strobe Talbott

July 8th, 2008 - 10:46 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 8 (IANS) A former senior US diplomat says the India-US relationship is on an upward trajectory but the next president must translate into concerted action all the talk about India and US being “natural allies” and “strategic partners” to better meet the challenges they share. The most dramatic American presidential election in many decades contains good news for US-Indian relations, says Strobe Talbott, former president Bill Clinton’s special envoy for the US-Indian dialogue of 1998-2000.

“The next president will inherit a relationship that is on an upward trajectory,” said the official who, as deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, conducted the dialogue with Jaswant Singh, external affairs minister in India’s Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

“But to better meet the challenges both countries share, he should translate into concerted action all the talk in recent years about the world’s oldest and largest democracies being ‘natural allies’ and ’strategic partners’,” Talbott added.

While there are significant differences between the two presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democratic Barack Obama, either one is likely to pursue foreign policies that will, in several respects, be welcome both in India and the world as a whole.

Turning to major issues between New Delhi and Washington, Talbott suggested that if despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s last-minute rescue bid, India-US civil nuclear deal is not completed during President George Bush’s tenure, “McCain or Obama would inherit a tricky and consequential piece of unfinished business”.

“Both supported the Bush-Singh deal. However, it is unclear whether either, as president, would simply endorse and implement it in its present form,” he said suggesting the winner might link full implementation of the deal to Indian acceptance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

“Given India’s longstanding neuralgia with regard to the CTBT (exceeded only by its even deeper antipathy to the NPT), a US president who moved back toward the CTBT would have a delicate and difficult time with his Indian counterpart on the terms of bilateral nuclear cooperation,” Talbott said.

On Iran, another “issue of intense and legitimate concern to Indians,” Talbott said McCain is more hawkish than Obama. “But neither candidate is, if elevated to the White House, likely to take precipitous action without exhausting coordinated diplomacy and consulting closely with countries whose interests are affected, notably including India.”

Yet another subject certain to figure in an intensified official dialogue between Washington and New Delhi, the former senior official said “is the ominous way in which Pakistan’s border areas have become, de facto, an extension of ‘Talibanistan’ and ‘Al-Qaedistan’”.

On the issue of global warming too, “McCain and Obama have committed themselves to a course very different from Bush’s,” said Talbott.

Bush has kept “the US on the sidelines of the Kyoto Protocol, while his would-be successors seem determined that the US will play a leading role in negotiating a successor climate-control regime, one that, unlike Kyoto, includes major countries of the developing world”, he said.

An additional reason for Indians to take heart from the political contest underway in America is that the positive phase in US-Indian relations that began a decade ago is, quite simply, not being debated, Talbott said.

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