High-level visits are a treat to the mind. They are rare occasions when we really get to wonder along with Madhuri Dixit, ‘Choli ke peechhe kya hai?‘. The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s visit to India was no exception. In the run-up to the visit, assistant secretary Robert Blake did a reccy trip to West Bengal and suggested that Kolkatta should be on Clinton’s itinerary. Somehow, state department in Washington was cocksure that Clinton would be a smashing hit in Kolkatta, the city that buried communism. The American expectation seems to be to develop West Bengal as a ‘base camp’ in the volatile eastern Indian region bordering China. But Delhi, it seems, thought otherwise.
Viewed from Delhi, control over foreign policy has always been the jealous prerogative of South Block. Besides, the locomotive of India-US relationship needs to be run with calibration and not like a bullet train. So, South Block proposed Chennai as an alternate destination. Now, it became the turn of the Americans to make the most out of Chennai. Clinton seized the opportunity to enter into a profound discussion with chief minister Jayalalithaa on the Sri Lankan situation. The two lady-politicians threw diplomatic proprieties up, up and away into the air and proceeded to lambast Colombo for indulging in horrible crimes. Clinton then went on to make the famous speech about India’s tryst with destiny as a resurgent Asian power — a stirring call to the timid Indian leadership to stand up and challenge China’s rise.
Clinton is an experienced politician and an accomplished diplomat who knows Indians somewhat and their innate shyness to be ‘assertive’. To be sure, she knew she was stepping way out of diplomatic line by asking India to be the Choudhry of Asia, because Indians are not a bunch of novices in world politics not to know that Asian nations are a proud lot . Imagine if our external affairs minister S.M.Krishna lands in Alaska one summer day and searches out Sarah Palin to discuss what is wrong with the human rights record of Russia in North Caucasus — and then goes on to address a town hall meeting in Juneau to offer some unsolicited advice as to how the US could come to terms with its decline.
Fortunately, only Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Gilani took Clinton’s utterances seriously. Beijing and Colombo simply ignored them. But eventually, South Block chose a stylish late cut to settle scores. It seems that completely contrary to what Clinton imagined, Delhi and Beijing are actually consulting each other on Asian security and development. Washington doesn’t seem to be in the loop.