Special to The Tribune
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC
Hours before US President Barack Obama arrived in India, his former Republican Party presidential rival Arizona Senator John McCain said the United States must endorse India’s bid for a permanent seat on an expanded United Nations Security Council.
“If we want India to join us in sharing the responsibilities for international peace and security, then the world’s largest democracy needs to have a seat at the high table of international politics,” McCain said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
He also said Americans must not allow their anxieties about globalisation to cause them to “demonise India for crass political gain,” adding, “outsourcing is an inescapable feature of today’s global economy, not an Indian plot to steal American jobs.” McCain said expectations of the US-India relationship are extremely high. “If India and the United States are to build a strategic partnership, we must each want it, and commit to it, and defend it in equal measure... The domestic pressures of our democratic politics pose perhaps the single greatest danger to our emerging partnership,” he said.
On the Indian side, he added in a thinly veiled reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party, “relations with the US cannot be made a political club which the party out of power uses to beat up the party in power for doing exactly what it would have done were it governing”.
On the eve of his visit to India, US-based analysts have urged Obama to support New Delhi’s bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council. The US and China are the two permanent members of the Security Council that have yet to back India’s bid. Britain, Russia and France support a permanent seat for India.
India’s relationship with China has been fraught with tension. McCain said he agreed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s concern about China’s new assertiveness. “It has not escaped notice both in Delhi and in Washington that some of the largest recipients of Chinese arms are states bordering India; that China continues to build deep-water ports suitable for military purposes in multiple nations encircling India; and that China has settled all its land border disputes except those with India where Chinese incursions continue into Indian territory,” McCain said.
“It is not difficult to understand why many Indian strategists and leaders, including Prime Minister Singh, see in these actions a Chinese effort to surround India and weigh down its rise to global power with persistent local problems,” he added.
On Afghanistan, McCain said fears about a premature US withdrawal had created tension in the United States’ relationship with India and reinforced the Pakistani military’s strategy of supporting terrorist groups in the region.
“Afghanistan has become a major source of tension between the US and India for the primary reason that India does not believe that we will stay until the job is done,” McCain. He added that it was important for the US to address this concern head-on.
Describing the US relationship with Pakistan as the one in which broader strategic interests are not entirely aligned, McCain said nothing the US has done since September 11, 2001, has changed the basic strategic calculus of the Pakistan army. “When compelled, it is willing to fight terrorist groups that threaten Pakistan, but not related groups that threaten Afghanistan, India and increasingly America as well,” he said.
The senator said some in Pakistan army and intelligence service continue to support these terrorist groups as a tool of influence. “A belief that America will withdraw prematurely from Afghanistan has only reinforced the Pakistani military’s inclination to hedge its bets,” he added. The Obama administration will conduct a review of its policies in Afghanistan in December.
McCain said if the US quits Afghanistan “before positive conditions can be shaped and sustained on the ground, the consequences will certainly be terrible for us, but they will be even worse for India, which will have a terrorist safe haven on its periphery.” He said such a consequence would deepen India’s reliance on Russia and Iran, which would damage the US-India relationship. “I can think of few more immediate ways to damage the US-India relationship and to convince India that the US is both a declining power and unreliable partner than for us to pull out of Afghanistan before achieving our goals,” McCain said.
In a conference call with reporters this week, Robert D Blackwill, who served as ambassador to India in the George W Bush administration, said India was extremely anxious that the US would forge a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Blackwill said the US and India needed to have a frank discussion on Afghanistan.
McCain described the emergence of a strategic partnership with India as “one of the most consequential, bipartisan successes of the recent US foreign policy”. But the US and India have their share of differences, specifically on Iran and Mayanmar. McCain said India should do more to ensure that democracy flourishes in both countries.