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Forumites, i just came across the following Chicago Tribune article, which i picked up for all of you to share. |
New Delhi -- When Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived here last month, it seemed there were no limits to the blossoming new relationship between the U.S. and India.
Hailing the "strategic partnership" recently formed between the two countries, Powell declared that the United States and India are "enjoying perhaps the best relationship that has existed between our two great democracies in many, many years--if not in history."
But then, barely 48 hours later, Powell flew to Islamabad and announced that the U.S. planned to designate India's archrival Pakistan a "major non-NATO ally."
The news hit New Delhi with the force of a bombshell.
In diplomatic parlance, a major non-NATO ally is clearly superior to a strategic partner, Indian officials say. The new status will put Pakistan on a par with long-standing U.S. allies such as Israel and Japan, making it eligible for certain military equipment and supplies and perhaps tilting the power balance on the subcontinent in Pakistan's favor.
Compounding the insult, the officials say, Powell didn't inform India of his intention to upgrade America's relationship with India's bitterest foe. If India is a "strategic partner" of the United States, they said, it would have been courteous to let India know about the Pakistan move.
Although the State Department scrambled to repair the damage, seeking to reassure India that Pakistan's new status is largely symbolic and won't result in significant transfers of new weaponry, the bitterness seems to be escalating.
"The U.S. of course has the prerogative to confer whatever status it desires on any nation," India's ambassador to the U.S., Lalit Mansingh, said in Washington last week. "But the way in which it was done--the substance and the style--of how it was done is what has caused deep disappointment in India."
It is not the first time American diplomacy has found itself entangled in the long-standing enmity between India and Pakistan. India, which prides itself on being the world's largest democracy, has long resented America's close relationship with the military generals who rule Pakistan.
But at a time when India and Pakistan finally are starting to talk peace, the slight has potentially profound implications, India fears.
Although India and Pakistan have downplayed the role played by America in bringing them to the negotiating table, privately officials from both countries acknowledge that U.S. diplomacy was crucial in nudging the fledgling peace process launched in January.
India now feels the United States can't be trusted as an honest broker because the U.S. let it be known that Pakistan is the favored ally, said C. Raja Mohan, professor of South Asian studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
"For the first time, the U.S. had the trust of both sides, and there was a chance of really achieving something," he said. "But with the U.S. saying that Pakistan is a special ally, its leverage goes down."
India already is blaming Pakistan's elevated stature for some recent hawkish comments by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, including a threat last week that Pakistan would pull out of the peace talks if there is no progress on Kashmir by the summer.
"We've noticed that whenever Pakistan feels it is closer to the U.S. and has access to military hardware, its positions do tend to stiffen," said an Indian official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In the long run, it is unlikely that Indian-U.S. relations will suffer. No matter how slighted India feels, it still needs the promise of economic and technological cooperation held out by the strategic partnership the U.S. is offering.
But for as long as America is preoccupied with the war on terror and with finding Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding along the Afghan-Pakistani border, India feels it won't be able to trust America fully, Raja Mohan said.