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Obama turns to Manmohan

The phone call by United States President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday comes as a surprise. The call was made a day after the US-India Strategic Dialogue ended, whereas, it could have been optimally made a week or at least 3-4 days earlier. The SD turned out to be a lack luster event and the best spin that can be put on it is that the US-India relationship is in a ‘pause’ mode with the two leaderships entangled in existential issues in their domestic politics. Keen observers in the world community would have noted that the “impetus” in the US-Indian relationship has drained off — to borrow an expression from a particularly sharp assessment by the Economist magazine.

What was more galling, some very blunt talk given by the US deputy national advisor Michael Froman to External Affairs MInister S M Krishna is a breach of protocol. Froman even finger-pointed the US’s expectations from the Indian prime minister. Such plain-speaking on a public platform was unnecessary. (In the past also, once at least he picked up the phone and gave a bit of his mind to the deputy chairman of the planning commission Montek Singh Alhuwalia who apparently didn’t mind the rudeness.) 
Krishna travelled to Washington via Beijing (so to speak) where he made a determined pitch for India’s membership of the SCO, a regional grouping whose very sight upsets the US. And from Washington he left on a 3-day official visit to Cuba. Of course, the joint statement issued after the Strategic Dialogue keeps a deafening silence on the core template of the US’s regional strategy — its ‘pivot’ to Asia and the ‘rebalancing’ of the US forces. 
Thus, Obama probably decided to make a friendly gesture after having given a wide berth to Krishna when he was in Washington. The White House account of Obama’s phone conversation with Dr. Singh pointedly omits any reference to the US-India relationship. 
However, it cannot be taken at face value, given the US’s wish list (stretching from nuclear commerce to Wal-Mart’s entry into the Indian market) that is lying on Obama’s desk in the Oval Office. 
Obama would have known that changes were likely in the stewardship of India’s finance ministry. The western media had been criticising Pranab Mukherjee as the main hurdle in the way of India’s ‘reforms’. The stakes are very high for the US interests. 
The White House maintains that the Obama-Singh conversation dwelt on “regional and international issues of mutual interest” and on the sad state of the global economy. A call in the middle of the night to seek the PM’s attention on the Eurozone crisis or the G-20? Unlikely. 
Maybe, Obama talked about Pakistan — especially as he prepares to apologize for the massacre of the Pakistani troops last November. Again, the US will expect India to stand up and be counted if or when the crunch time comes over Syria and Iran in the coming weeks. 
It seems to me Obama thought up the gesture to make up for the fiasco of the Strategic Dialogue before the post-mortem begins in Delhi. After all, it is no small matter that the US president rings up the PM to consult him how to set right the world economy. How many world leaders would get such a rare honor? The White House readout is here.   

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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8 Responses

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  1. shilpy says

    i suspect mr. bhadrakumar has not lived in usa but has lived a life of a colonial subject. the u.s. president routinely consults with the leaders of many nations, specially friendly nations. you can be sure obama was trying to pursue what he would regard as the interests of usa in india. which means walmart. hillary clinton, who sat on the walmart board, made a special trip to kolkatta for it to see mamta didi. although the gandhis of congress can care less about the huge loss of jobs in india that walmart would surely cause like walamrt has done in usa, there was/is, luckily for india, mamta bannerjee to block out walmart. i do not agree with mamta on most things, but on this one she saved india for which we all should be grateful.
    so, when the congress touts efficiency that can be had from walmart, the opposition should hold congress responsible for failure to build the infrastructure. suddenly, narendra modi becomes relevant as the next pm.

  2. kinjalrane says

    it does not make sense in going against US….India should follow d policy of “If u cannot beat dm join dm”. Without US this world would have been a den of dictators….its good dat US is controlling the world…the world is in safe hands. Not to forget…US did help India in Indo-China war.Moreover, US economy is 3/4 of the world, no doubt dy r d big boss.

  3. Grizzly says

    Whats the use in calling mms? He might have dialled the wrong number! He wanted to call sonia but mistakenly called mms. mms does not make any decisions, he follows he is told. And in the last few years all his decisions have resulted in failure.

  4. riv2000 says

    Rare Honor?…are you not ashamed to call yourself an Indian?…

  5. riv2000 says

    what a silly comment..”rare-honor”…this shows the low level mind set of the author and a patron of CIA…

  6. r murali says

    India has survived in spite of US in the Past. India should survive without US. It is US now that cannot survive without India.

  7. Mohammed Ahmed says

    India should be very careful, when it comes to dealing with USA. They keep their interest at heart always and expects other nations to dance to their tune. India should keep good relations with all its neighbors and never allow it self to be the poodle of any nation. Independent defense, foreign and economic policy is the only way to earn respect from other nations in this current global situation.

  8. shiva says

    Rare honour??? That shows the imperial mindset of the author. Stand up for a strong India. The west no longer dominates/rules the world. To each his own from here on.

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