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China ties not at India’s cost: US
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The US on Wednesday sought to defuse a mini crisis on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington, after New Delhi lashed out at President Barack Obama's support for a wider role for China in South Asia, by assuring New Delhi that while it is interested in a relationship with China, this does not come at the expense of its ties with India.

The Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns, the No. 3 official at the State Department, said, “Of course the US is interested in pursuing the best and healthiest possible partnership with China, but that doesn’t come at the expense of other increasingly important partnerships and particularly the relationship with India.” Burns was speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), a Washington think tank.

New Delhi has reacted sharply to a joint statement issued by Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing this week in which the two leaders said the US and China “support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan. The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region.”

India interpreted this to mean the US was supporting a role for China as peacemaker between New Delhi and Islamabad, but Burns cautioned the chattering classes in India against "too much reading into statements." He said the clearest indicator of the importance that Obama attaches to India is the fact that the first state visit in his presidency comes from Singh. Quick to draw comparisons between Washington’s relationships with Beijing and New Delhi, Indian officials privately noted that while Singh may have the honour of the first state dinner, Obama visited China first. Singh will arrive in Washington on Sunday and will be the guest of honour at the White House on Tuesday.

Burns said the reference in the joint US-China statement was “a very straightforward expression that we have: we look to China, just as we look to India and any other countries in the world, to contribute to the stability of Afghanistan.” He reiterated the Obama administration’s appreciation of India’s contributions in Afghanistan, a role Pakistan views with suspicion.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, when asked whether the US envisions a role for China in mending India-Pakistan relations, said that was a decision for India and Pakistan to make. “As friends to both of those countries, we have always encouraged both countries to meet and to try to narrow their differences,” he told reporters at the Foreign Press Centre.



House adopts resolution welcoming PM
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted a resolution welcoming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington.

The resolution, sponsored by Washington state Democratic lawmaker Jim McDermott, was co-sponsored by 14 other lawmakers. The resolution “commends the maturating of the relationship” between the United States and India, “exemplified by the current official visit of” Singh to Washington. It looks forward to “continuing progress in the relationship between the United States and India; and welcomes Prime Minister Singh to the United States”.

Singh arrives in Washington on Sunday and will receive an official welcome from President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday morning. After their meeting, the two leaders will host a mid-morning press conference. In the evening, the Obamas will host Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at the first state dinner of this presidency.

On Monday, the US Chamber of Commerce and US-India Business Council will host Singh at an event that will be chaired by Indra K Nooyi, CEO and chairman of PepsiCo and chairperson of the US-India Business Council, and Tom Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce.

New York Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman, a cosponsor of the House resolution, noted Singh has “worked hard” to improve the US-India relationship and has “courageously taken political risks for our bilateral relationship that few would venture”. He added: “But when the Prime Minister put his government and his career on line, it wasn’t for us, though his victory has certainly proved to be to our advantage. No, Prime Minister Singh took his chances for India, for its future and for the fulfillment of that country’s enormous potential.” Ackerman was referring to Singh’s decision to stick with a US-India civilian nuclear agreement despite opposition from Left parties, key allies in his first coalition government.

Ackerman, who has served twice as co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said the US partnership with India is built on the foundation that “India’s rise as a great power in Asia and as a global player advances critical American interests ranging from the promotion of democracy and democratic values, to improving stability and security throughout all parts of Asia”.

“We do not fear a growing India for one simple reason: India ’s values are our values,” he said, noting India is a “real democracy”, a thinly veiled reference to China and Pakistan, the former a communist state and the latter notorious for its frequent oscillation between civilian administrations and military dictatorships.



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