Friday, December 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Will Bush keep his promise?
Waiver of sanctions against India
From Aziz Haniffa

WASHINGTON, Dec 14 — As the USA finally got itself a President-Elect in Texas Governor George W. Bush, the question uppermost in the minds of India watchers here is if the nation’s 43rd President will make good his promise to lift all sanctions on New Delhi.

On the face of it, the Bush administration’s policy looks favourable to India because the policy formulations from the GOP platform and Mr Bush’s own statements and his foreign policy speech sometime ago had suggested that he would lift the sanctions, imposed in the wake of the May 1998 nuclear tests, and would not pressurise New Delhi to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Mr Bush had said, if elected, he would favour the immediate lifting of all sanctions against India while the GOP manifesto had spoken of India emerging as one of the greatest democracies in the new millennium and becoming the most populous nation in the world. “The USA should engage India, respecting its great multicultural achievements and encouraging Indian choices of a more open world,” the party manifesto said.

The CTBT issue, in any case, is an oxymoron because Mr Bush had already said that as President he would not ratify it, let alone re-submit it to the Republican-led Senate which last year rejected it much to the consternation and humiliation of the Clinton administration. 

Mr Bush’s chief foreign policy adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is tipped to be his National Security Adviser, had bemoaned what she called the “wasted years” of the US foreign policy towards India because of Washington’s obsession with nuclear proliferation, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Ms Rice had said that it was imperative that the US-India relationship “has to be a broad relationship and not a single issue relationship.”

“The tendency with India has been to start every conversation with nuclear weapons or start every conversation with Pakistan and Kashmir,” she had told IANS in an interview in Philadelphia in November on the sidelines of the first annual Wharton global business forum.

While these continued to be “extremely important issues,” Ms Rice argued that the US policy has to be “put in broader context of how to think about India’s role in the world, India’s potential role as a democratic stabilising force in South Asia, India’s role in economic development as it becomes a major economic player, that it will be easier to deal with all of these issues.”

Ms Rice, who was on the National Security Council of President George Bush senior’s administration and has been teaching at Stanford University since then, said such a modus vivendi would naturally evolve “when you broaden the relationship and make it a more mature bilateral relationship between the USA and India, much as we have more mature bilateral relationship around the world” with Washington’s allies.

While veteran South Asia specialists like Stephen Cohen and Richard Haas, former National Security Council official in the Bush administration and who now heads Brookings Institution’s foreign affairs studies center, have spoken about the positive aspects of the GOP manifesto for India, compared to the Democrats, on issues like the CTBT and non-proliferation, others cautioned against taking things for granted.

As if to substantiate their point, Ms Rice herself has been circumspect on the subject of lifting sanctions. “Before one thinks about what to do about the sanctions, it would be helpful if India is more forthcoming about its plan for nuclear development. What precisely it sees as the end game. A promise not to weaponise further and so forth,” she said.

Ms Rice was also circumspect to a question whether Washington should cultivate India, a democracy, as a strategic partner and also to serve as a buffer against authoritarian China, though Bush himself had slammed the Clinton administration’s perceived pandering to Beijing and said China was no strategic partner but a “strategic competitor.”

“I would hope that as relations improve between the USA and China and the USA and India, we could talk less about a buffer and talk about all of them stabilising the region.”

Analysts said despite their improved relations, both Washington and New Delhi would have to take extra care to ensure that the ties do not slip back to the Cold War era syndrome as issues like New Delhi’s flirtations with Myanmar could become a potential irritant to the new Republican administration. — IANS

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