Manmohan Singh’s reassuring return for Obama administration

May 16th, 2009 - 8:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Mayank Chhaya
Washington, May 16 (IANS) The clarity of the electoral outcome in India and the return of Manmohan Singh as prime minister are bound to reassure the Obama administration as it struggles to battle mortal threats emanating from the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.

While no one clearly enunciated that Washington would prefer to work with a professedly secular government in India, and there was no immediate reaction to the results because of the weekend, any likely emergence of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party-led grouping would have at the very least constituted a challenge as the Obama administration tries to neutralize the combined Taliban-Al Qaeda threat.

To the extent that a more hawkish government in New Delhi on the question of terrorism in general and Pakistan in particular would have made the balancing act that much more difficult for Washington, the administration is likely to be privately happy that Singh will be in the saddle for a second term. Even symbolically it helps the US to have as its partner a secular liberal government in India that it is familiar with to take on the medieval obscurantist forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Although for the Obama administration the India-US civilian nuclear deal is not necessarily central to the bilateral relation the way it became under the Bush administration, it helps that Singh and his coalition is so unequivocally committed to it. The deal’s completion will now acquire greater urgency, particular with the Left parties, which acted as as a battering ram against it, losing major ground.

Another overarching international issue, apart from the volatility in AfPak region, that the US would look to India for help in resolution is the global economic meltdown. India’s position as one of the two gigantic market economies along with China gives it a consequential role as the international community led by the US goes about fixing the meltdown.

President Barack Obama has been on record describing Dr. Singh as a “wise” man whose counsels in such matters are crucial.

Since Singh is certain to take over again as prime minister, there are no apprehensions of any policy disruptions. There are distinct possibilities of Washington asking New Delhi to play a greater and more direct role in Afghanistan and, by implication, in ensuring that democratic forces establish primacy in Pakistan.

There have been enough expressions out of Washington to strike a long-term strategic relationship with India. Although never articulated in such specific terms the US does see India as the single most important buffer against the rising tide of Islamist ideology. It can be safely expected that in the coming weeks and months Obama administration officials will engage their Indian counterparts in a comprehensive strategy to obstruct and eliminate that threat.

Of course, Washington would have worked with any political dispensation in India with the same resolve in meeting the two major global challenges, but it is obvious that the return of the Congress Party-led coalition makes its task in South Asia significantly less challenging.

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