It could be argued that as an old ‘Russia hand’ in the US foreign service, deputy secretary of state William Burns decided to take a special interest in the India-Russia summit meeting in Moscow on Friday. Indeed, he is a former US ambassador to Russia and has a big hand in crafting the state department’s policies toward Russia (including the current nasty spat with Vladimir Putin over “democracy deficit” in Russia).
At any rate, in an extraordinary gesture, he landed in India last Sunday and made himself readily available for consultations, as PM Manmohan Singh was preparing for the summit in Moscow. But Burns would be leaving India Thursday a disappointed man.
PM deliberately made it a point to convey his best wishes to Putin ahead of the presidential election in Russia on March 4 at a time when the US state department is firing all cylinders to discredit the Russian leader. In international diplomacy, such “Fukushima gestures” carry profound meaning. Burns is what we call a “seasoned diplomat” and can read the writing on the wall.
Burns’s mission was aimed at forestalling progress in India-Russia nuclear cooperation and making it a sub-plot of the US’s nuclear tango with India. Somehow Washington seemed cocksure Delhi would blink. But it not only didn’t but actually, the blatant arm-twisting and blackmailing might have ultimately provoked Delhi to stand up and shake off the spider webs that Burns had brought along to nettle the India-Russia relationship.
Quite obviously, the nuclear cooperation is at the very core of the India-Russia economic and strategic partnership and weakening it would mean dealing a debilitating blow to the relationship as a whole. But the outcome of the Moscow summit shows that not only is India-Russia nuclear cooperation on track but Russia has promised to actively galvanise India’s membership of the Nuclear Supply Group, which would “liberate” Delhi from further nuclear blackmail by Washington on the ENR issue (transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies).
I wish I were a fly on the Kremlin wall when PM talked things over candidly with the Russian leadership. The co-relation of forces in international politics is such today that a strong India-Russia partnership becomes a problem area for the US’s regional strategies.
Equally, it couldn’t have been a coincidence that PM made a major statement in the Indian parliament on India’s normalization with China when Burns was within earshot on Indian soil. Not a terribly encouraging setting for the US-Japan-India “trilateral dialogue” in Washington next Wednesday.
Posted in Diplomacy.
– December 17, 2011