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Sunday, December 5

Sarkozy in India: "It is unthinkable to imagine that the one billion people of India are not represented in the Security Council."

Following on the heels of Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama's embassies to India, France's no-nonsense leader is mincing no words and wasting no time in framing for the Indians the French approach to India. I especially liked the short work he made of Obama's attempt to play both sides of the fence: Sarkozy said that France did not speak in two languages to India.

Washington is playing a stupid game by approaching India as if the year were 1980, as witness the little lecture about responsibility that President Obama inserted in his speech to the Indian Parliament when he voiced vague U.S. support for India's bid for the NSC. Notwithstanding his strongly pro-American stance, for which I am profoundly grateful, Sarkozy does not intend to be beaten out in India by U.S. interests. A word to the wise in Washington.

There are reasons, not clearly evident to most Americans, why Michelle Obama made a hugely positive impression on Indians and helped her husband somewhat overcome his highly intellectual approach to people during his stay in India. Her stunning success as a representative of the best of U.S. influence in the world handed the Washington political and defense establishments a priceless gift. It would be a tragedy to see the gift wasted. Again, a word to the wise.

Speaking of wising up I think that Sarkozy's India embassy is a great time for Washington to ponder an unblinking appraisal of Obama's visit to India that was written by Rajeev Srinivasan, who for my money is one of the sharpest Indian pundits and knows American society from years he spent in the USA. The witty and acid-penned Rajeev has his own blog but Rediff, one of India's largest website portals, frequently publishes his columns and published the one featured at the end of this post. However, before the analysis of Obama's visit first more news on Sarkozy's visit to India:
Sarkozy backs India for UN Security Council, top N-club
Hindustan Times, December 4, 2010

(BANGALORE) French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday pledged support to India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and repeated longstanding French support for India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday pledged support to India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and repeated long-standing French support for India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Addressing scientists and students at the ISRO Satellite Centre here, he said France was a friend of India that did not speak in two languages. “It means what it says.”

With an eye on his presidency of the G-20, Sarkozy also spoke of plans to set up a G-20 environment fund and of his hopes of seeing India play a role in helping regulate global finance.

Sarkozy arrived in Bangalore at 10.30 am for a four-day official visit with his wife, former model Carla Bruni, seven cabinet ministers and 60 business and civil society leaders. After spending four hours here, Sarkozy left for Agra. The French president is expected to land in Delhi on Sunday afternoon.

Extending support for India's candidacy for the NSG, Sarkozy said it made sense for India to participate in multilateral bodies responsible for drafting and ensuring rules governing the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. “We need to put an end to the nuclear isolation of India. It was injustice done to India challenging your right to access civil nuclear energy,” he said, speaking of “limitless” possibilities in civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

"France was the first to say in 1998 that it was time to put an end to India’s nuclear isolation, as it was absurd to prevent such a country from developing its civilian nuclear sector”.

On India’s bid for a permanent UNSC seat, he said: “This is injustice ... It is unthinkable to imagine that the one billion people of India are not represented in the Security Council.”

He envisaged an expanded Security Council that included not only the G-4 nations — India, Brazil, Germany and Japan — but also a representative from Africa and the Arab world.

Last month, US President Barrack Obama had backed India’s bid. Two other permanent members, Britain and Russia, also endorse India. The fifth member, China, has not yet clarified its stance.

Sarkozy spoke of the development example India could be. He said if India manages to meet the challenge of effecting development through peace, it will have a huge effect on the world. But when India ushers in development, he said, it must also focus on environmental concerns. “You should safeguard the environment ... [after all] you will be first to be affected.”

Sarkozy also saw a major role for India in curbing global terrorism. “Terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan are a major threat to world peace. We can’t afford to see the Taliban succeed in Afghanistan.”

Condemning 26/11, he said: "When India is attacked, it is democracy that is attacked."

During his visit, Sarkozy will bat for French firms to win contracts for military hardware. India is in the market for 126 fighter jets, a deal worth Rs 50,000 crore, and 200 helicopters worth Rs 18,400 crore. French firms are also negotiating to upgrade the IAF’s 51 Mirage-2000 jet fighters.
Now to the analysis of Obama's visit to India. As a bonus Rajeev added remarks about the still-floundering NATO war effort in Afghanistan. His brief history lesson on Pakistan and the Pashtuns is valuable for Americans but I disagree with his advice that the only way to settle the situation is the creation of a Pashtun state. The advice comes a half century too late.

The knowledge that Afghanistan is sitting on potentially USD trillions in prize natural resources is decades old but the recent explorations, which throw more light on the extent of the country's potential wealth, absolutely rule out a division of the country along ethnic lines -- except through a civil war that would only lead to a Sudan-type situation dragging on for decades.

And since the news got out that Afghanistan is in line to be filthy rich, al Qaeda has decided that the country is actually the Promised Land for Islam as described in certain Muslim texts.

The best defense Afghans will have against all efforts to pry their wealth away from them will be to grit their teeth and stick together.

"After the Kool-Aid: Notes from the Obama visit
November 11, 2010

Where is the substance in the just-concluded Obama jamboree, asks Rajeev Srinivasan.

A casual observer, the proverbial Martian, would have concluded from the breathless media coverage during the Barack Obama love-fest that this was a visit of the King-Emperor of India's colonial master. The pageantry and pomp and circumstance hid the sad fact that the emperor had no clothes, that is to say, there was precious little of substance in evidence. Lots of style, though: An Obama trademark.

But then Indians love a good party, and this was like a Big Fat Punjabi Wedding: Plenty of dancing, much drinking, and everyone nursing a hangover the next day. Naturally, nobody wanted to bring up anything serious or embarrassing. As usual, Indians were taken in by flattery and vague words about 'global power' and 'rightful place in the world'.

There was one major meta-theme: Obama was in India hat in hand, beginning his reelection campaign. After the self-confessed 'shellacking' he received in the mid-term elections, and given that anyway he is more comfortable campaigning than governing, this should not be much of a surprise.

The 2012 presidential elections are not that far off; the Republicans may contrive to shoot themselves in the foot and so the grim prospect of 'four more years' of Obama cannot be underestimated.

If you take the election issues out, the Obama visit was much like the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron a few weeks prior (and he's doing the same in China now). Cameron was disarmingly candid; he was a salesman, doing a hard-sell of his wares: India clearly has 'buyer power' -- as per strategy guru Michael Porter -- that is, India, being a major purchaser of all sorts of goods, has influence over sellers.

Obama did his selling more subtly, partly because he could get a lot of mileage out of his black-man-inspired-by-Gandhi-and-King trope -- Indians are suckers for this sort of sentimental pabulum, although in reality 99 per cent of American blacks have never heard of Gandhi, and have no particular sympathy for Indians as fellow-sufferers from white oppression; if anything, they may view Indians in the US as benefiting unfairly from the affirmative action programmes they won with their blood, sweat, and tears.

Was the visit a success? Perhaps it was, from the American point of view. Obama did sell $15 billion worth of goods and generate 54,000 American jobs. And he didn't give away the store, or anything at all. Incidentally, there is a meme among hostile Americans about how Dubya Bush 'gave away the store' to India -- The New York Times in particular harps on this theme often -- in relation to the so-called 'nuclear deal'.

On the contrary, it is India that gave away the store by giving up its -- pitiful though it might be -- nuclear deterrent capability.

Surely Obama didn't give much away. He got misplaced, but thunderous, applause from Indian parliamentarians when he talked about welcoming India into the UN Security Council -- they did not realise he was talking about the non-permanent membership that India has just won. The prospect of a full veto-wielding permanent membership is, alas, just as far as it always has been, thanks to the supreme folly in refusing it when offered in 1955 -- in favor, of all countries, China! Go figure!

Obama's rhetorical flourishes about the Security Council membership were full of fine phrases, but there was the distinct absence of an action verb: Such as 'support', 'commit', or 'endorse'. I am reminded of a Doonesbury cartoon about Ted Kennedy, wherein the orator makes fine, emphatic statements, which, sadly, all consist of nouns, and the commentator says, 'A verb, Senator, we need a verb!'

All President Obama said was the following, verbatim: "In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UNSC that includes India as a permanent member".

What he did not say was that his country strongly supported the idea and that it would throw its weight behind India's candidacy, as it has for Japan.

Without a time-bound statement of intent, it was mere fluff, a pious platitude. In any case, Obama knows full well that China will veto Japan's, and India's, aspirations.

Furthermore, Obama immediately imposed conditions -- that India should toe the US line on Iran, human rights and nuclear non-proliferation. All of these are suspect -- not that I am a big fan of Iran, but India has regional interests that suggest it engage Iran, for instance for access to Afghanistan, and for hydrocarbons.

In fact, it would be a good idea for India to lecture the US that the latter should ally with Iran so that it is not dependent on Pakistan's ISI for transit of its war materiel to Afghanistan.

By carping on human rights (code for Kashmir) and non-proliferation (code for India signing the NPT), Obama was addressing his pals in the ISI and in the non-proliferation-ayatollah-dom that permeates the Democratic ranks in the US.

What about extensive proliferation and human rights violations by Pakistan and China, Mr US President? How come you have no fine words to say to those allies of yours? What about the human rights of Afghans, so trampled on by the ISI?

All in all, whatever the ELM spin-doctors say, Obama gave much less than a ringing endorsement of India's aspirations for the Security Council. It is clear that the P5 are not going to dilute their stranglehold on the UNSC, or on nuclear weapons -- if India ever gets on the UNSC, it will be as a non-veto-holding member, and it would have signed the NPT. This is no different from the way things were two weeks ago, so I ask: "Where's the beef?"

Naturally, unfriendly pundits from The New York Times and others passed it off as 'Countering China, Obama Backs India for UN Council'. No, Virginia, read his lips. That's not what he said. The Los Angeles Times correctly identified it as 'only a step' in that direction. The Wall Street Journal quoted William Burns, an official, who refused to say whether the US would support a veto-bearing status for India. Bingo!

But Obama demonstrated that he does know how to use verbs when he spoke about Aghanistan. He said, "We will not abandon the Afghan people." Fine words, but it is hard to reconcile this with his actions, in particular his insistence on pulling out troops in 2011, which has emboldened all the warlords into a waiting game. [Pundita note: as we know, NATO has backpedaled from that date.]

Furthermore, the official Obama Administration stand on Afghanistan is predicated on India making sacrifices to appease Pakistan. The standard line was articulated in a particularly inane oped in The Washington Post on Nov 8 by one David Pollack, in an article headlined Our Indian Problem in Afghanistan, which could have been written by the ISI, so well did it articulate their position.

No, David, the issue is not India's presence in Afghanistan, which goes back centuries, and is mostly humanitarian. Let us also remember that Afghanistan was the nation that opposed Pakistan's entry into the UN -- they had good reason to do so, because half of the natural territory of Afghanistan is occupied by Pakistan.

The problem is the Durand Line. The Afghans have never recognised the Durand Line, an artificial boundary that was imposed by force on them in 1893 by the British; in any case that treaty expired in 1993. The Pathans on either side of the line are unnaturally divided by the line.

This human rights issue -- the oppression of the Pathans since 1947 by the largely Punjabi Pakistani army and the ISI -- is the root cause of the Afghan problem. There is a simple geographic solution to the Afghan problem: let the Pathans merge southern Afghanistan and the western part of Pakistan into a Pashtunistan, their long-standing demand.

That would immediately solve the Afghan problem, and Obama can take his boys home. Leaving the Pathans in charge of their own destiny will prevent the Pakistanis from abusing them by proxy -- it is Pakistani ISI and army personnel who put on baggy pants and grow beards and call themselves the Taliban. And consort with al Qaeda.

Northern Afghanistan, dominated by Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, and base of the erstwhile Northern Alliance, could be administered as a peaceful nation, protected by NATO forces.

Even today, the Panjshir Valley (home of national hero and military genius Ahmed Shah Massoud, assassinated by the Taliban a day before 9/11), Mazar-e-Sharif, etc. are not so troubled. Why, they even have a tourist agency in Bamiyan which, I am told, brought 800 tourists this year to the site of the magnificent Buddha statues that the Taliban blew up.

Selig Harrison, writing in The Los Angeles Times on November 8, in a piece titled Pakistan divides US and India, got the facts right. The problem is the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani army, which in effect has colonised the Baluchi, Sindhi, and Pathan populations of Pakistan, all of which are restive.

The dissolution of Pakistan is the only answer to the problem. And this is the one thing that Obama is unwilling to countenance. Therefore he is not serious about solving the Afghan problem, he merely wants a face-saving way of exiting Afghanistan.

Given that these are life-and-death issues for India, and that other major issues, such as agriculture and education, got short shrift, from an Indian point of view, it is fair to say that the Obama visit was not a success.

The most positive thing I can say is that the feared 'November surprise', a signing-over of Kashmir to the ISI, did not happen. At least, it did not happen in public.

Otherwise, stripped of all the glad-handing and the huzzahs, the Obama visit to India was a major non-event. India got practically nothing out of it. But then, India's leaders do not know what their goals are, so avoiding utter disaster, I suppose, is a victory. Of sorts.

Rajeev Srinivasan"

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Pundita, Rajeev underestimates the pragmatism of the average Indian when he says they were swayed by the slick words of Mr. Obama. The media and the corporate sector has a vested interest in pushing India closer into the US's embrace, but the ordinary person carries a weariness about the US that comes from a collective memory, of sorts, that includes the unstinting support given by the Americans to Pakistan, among other things.

Moreover, Obama didn't actually cause the deals to take place - they were going to happen anyway; all he did was club them together.
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