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Hillary Clinton did the best she could do

Last updated on: July 25, 2009 01:05 IST

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did her best that she could do in the given circumstances, on her five days visit to India.

She came to connect and she did it, in spite of the disagreements between the two countries on core issues of climate change, non-proliferation, Pakistan and terrorism. She tried to build on the relationship strengthened by former president George Bush, says prominent international strategic affairs analyst K Subrahamanyam.

He says, "She is different from (former US secretary of state) Condoleezza Rice. She came and had people to people diplomacy. Which Secretary of State of America has met so many Indians in one visit? Will she do such things in China? Rice and her style are different. Rice would meet top people and fly away. Hillary is different."

America's primary concern in the region is to win the war in Afghanistan and to do that, they need Pakistan. And, to win the bigger war on economic front at home they need China's co-operation. In such circumstances she hardly had space to move beyond her countries immediate interests.

"India was sulking when she went to China, her first visit abroad," Subrahmanyam says, and adds, "China and US' relationship is cosy for a short period. Due to economic downturn they are co-operating. But, rivalry is in-built in their bilateral relations. India and US are partners. Clinton has said that US wants India to shape 21st century."

Her visit was choreographed in predictable diplomatic manners. Even the customary picture of American woman with Indian village-beauties was arranged in the metropolitan city of Mumbai.

On the table, Clinton, friend of India, brought education, climate change, agriculture, end use monitoring agreement to facilitate defence trade, terrorism, Iran, Afpak policy and Kashmir as well. The visit was too important for bilateral relations, and the US embassy tried to drum it up by organising her meetings with students, social workers, educators and a series of  TV interviews, where she kept nodding her head with broad smile whenever she was quizzed on the US stance on terrorism unleashed from the territory of Pakistan into India.

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Senior editor M J Akbar said, "Hillary's forthcoming book on diplomacy should have a working title: 'How to make friends in India and influence people in Pakistan.' All through her India trip she dropped little alibis for Pakistan, and no one either noticed or cared, even when she explained away Islamabad's duplicity in the case against banned Jamaat-ud-Dawaah chief Hafeez Saeed. The legal process tends to be time-consuming everywhere. We all know that, don't we?"

Former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra said, "I think her visit was predictable. It was quite goody-goody. However, no secretary of State has said as much on Kashmir as her while touring the country. I think it was wrong on her part because when you are on an official visit, you don't talk like that."

However, the moot question that was on the critics' mind was spelt out by her only in closing remarks. She said, "Since I arrived here, people have asked me, 'Can you pledge to maintain the positive US -India relations that President Clinton and President Bush worked to build?' And I tell them that I can pledge more than that. We will work not just to maintain our good relationship, but to broaden and deepen it. And to that end, our governments have agreed to a strategic dialogue built on the five pillars in our joint statement."

Between India and US there are more than 26 working groups talking on energy, defence, education to agriculture. Now, during Clinton's visit, it has been consolidated and renamed as five pillars that include the Strategic Cooperation working groups that will address non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and military cooperation, energy and climate change, education, trade and agriculture.

During their joint press conference, Clinton and Indian Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna signed an agreement jointly creating a $ 30 million endowment to be used for joint research and development in the field of science.

One of the major achievements that would boost scope for growth of Indian space industry was that both the countries signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement and associated side letters pertaining to the use of US-licensed components on spacecraft launched from Indian facilities.

Practically, the agreement will facilitate the launch of US-licensed spacecraft components and safeguard protected technologies and data of both countries. The side letters commit the United States and India to enter into consultations regarding the market for commercial space launch and satellite services.

The recent mood spoiler between two countries has been US President Barack Obama's proactive stance about the non-proliferation regime. India was embarrased when the Obama administration persuaded the G-8 countries to ban the enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) items and technology to countries who have not signed the NPT. India has not signed. This will affect Indo-US civil nuclear pact and India's right for 'full civil nuclear' co-operation.

But, Hillary surprised India when asked about the ban. She said that US doesn't oppose the transfer of technology. She said, "Well, clearly, we don't. We have just completed a civil nuclear deal with India. So if it's done within the appropriate channels and carefully safeguarded, as it is in the case of India, then that is appropriate, but we are very much opposed to unauthorised and inappropriate transfers that unfortunately can take place by certain countries or non-state actors doing so."

She said that, "We're seeking the advice and suggestions from India about how we can prevent the unauthorised and dangerous transfer of nuclear technology and material which poses a threat to the entire world."

Indian government, quite in haste, announced two nuclear energy park sites in the states of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh for development by US companies. But, after her visit the political storm erupted over Indian government's agreement to End Use Monitoring Arrangements for high technology military sales between India and the US.

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Americans claim that the agreement will boost India's ability to defend itself through the acquisition of US defence equipment while promoting American high-tech exports. But, Indian opposition parties termed it as intrusive and affecting sovereignty of India.

Mishra dismissed the opposition to end-use monitoring agreement as 'bunkum.'

The agreement puts restrictions of various types on India. He said if India wants high-technology then it has to accept the terms of suppliers, and if India decides to not buy from US then its India's choice.

The fact is that the past Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has allowed such so-called intrusive agreement with America. In 2002, when India bought weapon locating radars to keep in Kashmir, US officials were taken to Kashmir, says Subrhamanyam.

He says, "Russia, France and UK all countries have end-use verifications and restrictions. But, they are executive actions and part of contracts. Unfortunately, US have legislative requirements."

This agreement will help unleash possibilities of military sales to India worth Rs 30000 crore in coming decade or less. 

A senior ministry official said that even India has end-use verification agreement and all countries take care to see that their high-tech equipments are not resold or misused.

Clinton's top achievement on Indian tour was to arrive at the agreement, which is called arrangement because is not signed, yet. But, opposition to it is quite strong in New Delhi. Opposition parties have walked out of the Parliament in protest.

In India opposition parties and critics of the EUMA argue that it is highly desirable that US and India have good partnership and they share limited foreign policy goals on issues like terrorism, but Indian sensitivity is high against Indian co-operation to the US military goals.
 
The terms and conditions of  end use arrangement smacks of US' long plan, where as a first step, US will sell India dazzling high-tech weapons only after India grees to EUMA. In long term, the critics worry that US may ask India 'to participate in military operations in the region and elsewhere under American leadership.'
 
End use agreement is being used to keep interoperability of military wings only. Because of such strong arguments, the opposition to EUMA in New Delhi will not die down soon.

However MEA source told media that the language of EUMA is finalised and that would be used for future high-tech military deals between US and India. Since the last 40 years, ad hoc arrangement was used whenever the weapons or high-tech equipments were purchased.

Under Blue Lantern and Golden entry programme of US defence security cooperation agency, India has purchased few things.

Importantly, a senior diplomat who was involved in the talks with Americans told rediff.com, "End use Monitoring agreement will not have any restriction on India from US in strategic deployment of weapons." Meaning, the weapons or missiles supplied by the US can be deployed against Pakistan, China or Myanmar, wherever India wishes. Also, he said, "US officials will be able to come for verification at our time and place of choosing."

India has been agreeing with the US suppliers on EUMA on retail basis.

A senior diplomat says, "US view on supplies was integrated and systematic. India was not having one view. Since we didn't have one version US would take advantage in dealing with us."

In the past India used to lose out because US had a proper system in place for ensuring the end use; but the Indian navy, army and air force were giving and agreeing to different terms. Now, in Clinton's visit, one generic formulation has been agreed to, that will give advantage to India as well, says the MEA official.

However, on the issue of climate change differences came in open when environment minister said in front of her in press conference that," Let me tell you clearly and categorically that we are simply not in a position to take on legally binding emission reductions." 

However, Hillary spoke with pragmatism on the issue at the same press meet. She said, "No one wants to, in any way, stall or undermine economic growth that is necessary to lift millions of people out of poverty.."

She added, "The United States does not, and will not, do anything that would limit India's economic progress."

Kanwal Sibal, former foreign secretary says, "On the core issues India has reason to dissatisfy. Particularly, US views on climate change were elaborated by Todd Stern and that shows that India will have a tough time. What Americans should understand is that climate change is not a bilateral issue. It's a multilateral issue to discuss on international forums. There should not be any bilateral pressure over it."

Clinton has kept the sprit high by extending an invitation to Prime Minister Singh from President Obama, inviting Singh to Washington on November 24th for the first state visit of the new administration.

Clinton said before ending her visit to India, "At a time when the headlines are filled with challenges, the relationship between the United States and India is a good news story and I believe, Minister, that it's going to get even better."

A senior official, who was a key figure during Bush days, said, "People had wrong apprehensions that America is cooling off. Clinton's visit said 'not very much.' Not every one can love India as much as Bush did, but Hillary showed enough affection for India and her chemistry with people was really reassuring."

Its time to say thanks to Hillary, says a diplomat, because she tried her best in the given circumstances.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi