The Indian pundits will be disappointed that US president Barack Obama’s choice as the new ambassador to India fell on Nancy Powell, a solid “South Asia hand” with intelligence background and great grasp of Pakistan — rather than assistant secretary of state for the far east Kurt Cambell who was , a co-founder of the Centre for a New American Security (which diligently pursues the New American Century project), and who presently holds charge of Vietnam, Japan, Australia, China and South China Sea.
Obama obviously thinks of India as a well rooted country in the quagmire of the South Asian region, which could be a lead player in the sub-region in the US’s strategies. Asia-Pacific can wait till the US sorts out the sub-region first.
Powell is an exceptional “area specialist”, having served in Islamabad as ambassador in the golden years of the Pervez Musharraf era. She has been all over the sub-region - Islamabad, New Delhi, Calcutta, Dhaka — and even Parchanda’s Kathmandu. Of course, she is familiar with the Tibet issue and Dalai Lama as well.
Designating a career diplomat needn’t signify anything special. The US sends politicians as ambassadors to Beijing but Moscow gets loads of career diplomats. Evidently, in this case, the priority is to get a nasty job done in the region as well as possible — Afghan war, Pakistan — and on how India could be of help in this uncertain business.
It’s Pakistan, Stupid! After all, as deputy secretary of state William Burns underscored
in his speech in Pune speech, China isn’t such a big problem. Indian pundits should calm their nerves and not draw “mistaken conclusions”, Burns advised, because a “thriving China” is actually good for them.
Powell will also advice them that there is really no such urgency for a security tie-up for India with US and Australia at this point in time. Don’t ask what the US can do for India; ask what India can do for the US. Concentrate on Pakistan and ensure that the US wins the Afghan war.