It is difficult to be clear and bluntly open about international policies and issues especially when they concern a strategic power like India. This has been abundantly clear during President Obama's trip to India.
A trip to India is a challenge for even the most powerful leader in the world. He has to follow the unwritten rules of international diplomacy and balance his country's foreign policy with the expectations and ambitions of the host country. From the statements President Obama made over his three day tour of India, it was pretty clear the he had learned this lesson.
Not that he does not face the scrutiny of media and common people at home but the pressure of the expectations of a billion people is altogether a different thing.
The new leadership of India wants the country to be recognized as a superpower and be viewed in a unique light. For decades the world has seen South Asia as a troubled region due to confrontation between India and Pakistan over the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Leader around the world saw and addressed the two neighbors in one breath.
The new India wants this to change and the change has already begun to take place with India's economic might being recognized at forums such as the G8 and the G20 where it is seen as equal to some of the developed countries.
However, the Indian people and the Indian political establishment still want and expect the world to look at India and Pakistan in one light on one issue, the issue of terrorism. India wants the world to recognize and acknowledge that Pakistan has been the aggressor and continues to be even today and India, for decades, has fought off the proxy wars of Pakistan in the form of state-sponsored terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.
The common people in the Mumbai, who have been witnessing terror attacks for almost 20 years, wanted President Obama to acknowledge Pakistan's intentions to destabilize India. President Obama, however, steered clear of such a diplomatic misadventure. The main opposition party was quick to criticize President Obama for not mentioning Pakistan's role in the Mumbai attacks.
President Obama (almost) successfully avoided what could well have been a diplomatic nightmare given the still significant dependence of the United States on Pakistan in the counter-terrorism efforts. The President handled some very sharp questions from young students at a town hall meeting at one of the oldest colleges of India. When asked why America does not consider Pakistan a terrorist state, the President struggled to give a straight answer.
On the second day of his tour, when he travelled to New Delhi, he met with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at an unscheduled meeting which lasted much longer than initially planned. In this meeting, which was not attended by any aides from either sides, the two leaders are believed to have discussed Pakistan, Afghanistan and terrorism. On the third and final day, the two leaders met again and had discussions about strategic, economic and security-related issues.
But even during the joint press conference following the meeting President Obama did not speak of Pakistan when asked about terrorism in India. It was only during the last public meeting at the Parliament House that President Obama mentioned Pakistan and warned that it needs to dismantle its terror machinery to which the Indian Parliamentarians gave a resounding applause.
It seems pretty clear that the President had to finally give up some ground and acknowledge Pakistan's role in terrorism in India. The American intelligence agencies are well aware of Pakistan's role in exporting terrorism to India and have been sharing intelligence with India for quite sometime now.
President Obama's hesitancy to avoid acknowledging Pakistan's role in sponsoring terrorism is understandable, given the high stakes America has in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he could also not ignore the concerns of a strategically valuable partner like India and finally gave up some diplomatic ground during his last few hours in India.
Image: Picapp © 2010 Reuters
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree