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Is Obama too much the Pacific president and not enough the Indian Ocean president?
In India’s view, Obama was spending too much time lavishing attention on China and not enough on India. When Obama made his remarks in China, that the United States and China had responsibility for the wellbeing of the world, India took notice and asked why wasn’t India mentioned? Where was the clarity of the Bush administration that China needed to be contained and that India would be part of that strategy?
Traditionally prickly, India wants to be considered as a great power and not relegated to a lesser status than the U.S.-China relationship. When there had been border difficulties with China along the often undefined frontier high in the Himalayas, the U.S. had not been attentive enough to India’s position, Indians said.
And then there was India’s traditional enemy Pakistan. The U.S. was pouring arms into Pakistan that could be used to confront India, and not enough was being asked by the Americans in return. In our desperation to turn Pakistan into a force for fighting Islamic extremism we were ignoring India’s interests.
American hints about India meddling too much in the affairs of Afghanistan were unwarranted, in India’s view. And furthermore, America having opened up a very unpleasant can of worms in Afghanistan, was planning to pull back in the summer of next year, and most likely pull out altogether after that, leaving India home alone with all the mess.
The Obama team got the message, and the president made a special visit to State in order to meet the Indian delegates — an unusual gesture. Furthermore, the White House recently announced that the president would be visiting India in November.
It is clear that the Obama administration does not want to leave India’s hurt feelings unaddressed.