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Rediff.com  » News » Is Obama leaning to China on Arunachal issue?

Is Obama leaning to China on Arunachal issue?

Last updated on: October 06, 2009 09:09 IST
B Raman's startling assessment that the Obama administration may tilt the Chinese way on the Arunachal Pradesh issue.

In my article Why Barack Obama won't meet the Dalai Lama, I had noted as follows: 'His Holiness is going ahead with his plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh in November, which could more or less coincide with Obama's visit to China.'

The United States officials were reportedly worried that the Chinese anger, over the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, might come in the way of the success of Obama's promised efforts to persuade Beijing to resume its dialogue with His Holiness. It is not clear whether they gave any advice to His Holiness in this matter.

It is learnt that officials of the Obama administration have stepped up pressure on the advisers of His Holiness -- to persuade the Dalai Lama not to raise any controversy over Arunachal Pradesh for the time being -- till the American president succeeds in persuading the Chinese to resume their dialogue with the representatives of His Holiness.

The Obama administration is showing signs of greater sensitivity to the concerns and interests of China than those of India. Reliable reports indicate that it is veering towards a policy of neutrality on the issue of Arunachal Pradesh, which has been a major bone of contention between India and China.

It is believed to be dragging its feet on the implementation of the understanding reached between the preceding Bush administration and the Government of India, to undertake searches in Arunachal Pradesh territory for US Air Force personnel, who had gone missing in action during the Second World War.

It is learnt that the formats of the joint exercises between the three wings of the armed forces of the two countries, which were agreed upon during the Bush administration, are being reviewed in order to delete elements, which could cause concern to not only China, but also Pakistan -- such as joint exercises between the two armies in the Siachen area to enable US army personnel to get exposed to high altitude conditions, joint naval exercises in the seas to the east of India etc.

While the Obama administration wants to go ahead with the overall format of the strategic relationship with India, as laid down by the Bush administration, it wants to have a second look at those aspects which could cause concern to China.

There was one joint naval exercise off Japan involving ships of the navies of India, the US and Japan, after Obama assumed office. Such exercises are likely to be avoided in the future.

There is also a possibility of the US abstaining when the specific proposal for assistance from the Asian Development Bank for a flood control project in Arunachal Pradesh comes up for approval before the ADB. The ADB's board of governors had earlier this year, after Obama came to office, approved a basket of projects proposed by India despite opposition from China.

It is learnt that ADB officials have been saying that approval for the package as a whole did not mean approval of each individual item in the package and that each individual item has to be approved separately. Efforts are being made to scuttle ADB support for the proposal relating to Arunachal Pradesh.

The Obama administration seems to be thinking that all that it needs to do to humour India and soften the blow -- due to its steady reversal of the pro-India policies initiated by the Bush administration -- is to accord the honour of a State visit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November and play up the ceremonial honours accorded to him.

In the last few days, officials of the US state department have been briefing the media about the kind of honours that will be accorded to Dr Singh when he visits Washington. These are meant to show that there has been no change in US policies towards India under the Obama administration.

The reality is that on every matter, which is of concern to India, greater attention is being paid to China's sensitivities and concerns.

B Raman