Monday, February 27, 2006

Sunday Times of India

Prez-ing forward over the decades
26th Feb, 06

When George W Bush arrives in New Delhi on March 1, he will be only the fifth American president to visit India, after Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, Richard Nixon in 1969, Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Bill Clinton in 2000.

So while there was a decade's gap between the first three presidential visits, and two decades between Carter and Clinton, it is only about six years — the shortest span — between Clinton and Bush.

Some would say it's about four years too many. The Bush push for India, building on the blocks that Clinton laid out after New Delhi's 1998 nuclear tests, emerged in a National Security Strategy document announced in the fall of 2002, which outlined a vision for strengthened strategic relationships with India, highlighting its primacy in the region and its rise as a regional power and global force. But it would be another couple of years before Bush acted on it in practical ways.

Such lurching progress is typical of US-India relations that has seen so many ups and downs that it has engendered terms such as 'Estranged Democracies' and 'Engaged Demo-cracies'.

In the old days, books on the subject had titles such as 'The Cold Peace' and 'The Unfriendly Friends'. Now it's 'India: Emerging Power' and 'Rising India'.

Here, in STOI's assessment, are the historic highs and lows of US-India relations over the years...

1942 Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed for India's independence with a reluctant Winston Churchill.

He continued to press Churchill over the years even as the latter grew resentful after every discussion on the subject. The American influence counted when Britain finally relented.

1962 During the India-China war, Kennedy responded positively to Nehru's plea for arms and support. "I want to give you support as well as sympathy," Kennedy wrote in response to a message from Nehru.

The US sent nuclear carrier USS Enterprise to the region as a show of solidarity. 1966-67The US supplied millions of tons of wheat to stave off a famine in India. The aid was not without a catch (see lows).

The US also wrote off nearly $2 billion owed by India and for many years that waiver held the record for the single largest amount ever written on a cheque.

1999 President Clinton summoned Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharief to Washington and forced him to withdraw from Kargil. He also said the Line of Control in Kashmir cannot be redrawn by force and signalled a huge change of policy by the US on the issue.

2005 Bush built on the Clinton initiative to get closer to India, signalling a dramatic realignment in the region.

The new policy's goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century. "We understand fully the implications, including military, of that statement," officials declared.

1948 Truman Administration engineered the UNSC resolution on Kashmir, ignoring the fact that Pakistan was the aggressor.

The move would set the tone on Kashmir for the next half century. Nehru warned that the US stance would have far-reaching consequences.

1953 Secretary of State John Foster Dulles visited the region and bought Ayub Khan's plea that the US should provide weapons to Pakistan to meet the growing communist menace. It started a military relationship that made Pakistan an arms junkie.

1966-67 In the face of a famine, US supplied India with food but kept the supply line so tight, it gave rise to the expression "ship to mouth".

A bitter Mrs Gandhi said India would never again beg for food. The result was the Green Revolution — with US help!

1971 After Pakistan cracked down on its eastern wing and attacked India in the west, the Nixon-Kissinger duo openly supported Pakistan and sent USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal to browbeat India. It would take many years to undo this damage to the relationship.

1979-80 Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US began recklessly arming Pakistan.

The Soviets were repelled, but it led to the jihadi culture, debilitation of Pakistan and birth of Al-Qaida, the result of which both US and India have had to bear

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