Wednesday, April 23, 2008

India: We Still Don't Learn

Next week, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit India, the "world's largest democracy" and frequently touted as a leading candidate to join any League of Democracies.

We've seen, consistently, that whenever the U.S. makes PUBLIC statements about what India ought to do vis-a-vis Iran, it creates a negative public backlash in the Indian political establishment. Indians on both the right and left sides of the political spectrum resent any appearance of loss of sovereignty in how India conducts its affairs. Communists line up with the BJP to condemn any appearance of interference in their affairs.

So what do we do?

The State Department issues a public statement about what we hope the Indian prime minister would tell Ahmadinejad about what to do about Iran's nuclear activities. Sure, it was phrased in the polite language of a request ("we would hope") rather than as a requirement, but still, it was a public--and here I keep stressing that point, public--statement about what the U.S. wants India to do in its bilateral relations with another state.

So, not surprising, India's foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee--who it might be added didn't have a particularly stellar visit to Washington recently--had to march down to the Lok Sabha to tell the parliamentarians, "'We are suggesting to the US, do not take upon yourself the task of determining whether Iran is manufacturing nuclear weapons or not. Let the IAEA decide." Mukherjee's spokesman Navtej Sarna was more blunt: “India does not need any guidance on its conduct of relations with Iran as both the nations are perfectly capable of managing all aspects of their ties."


Anyone ever hear of quiet diplomacy? Back channels? Discrete letters? Prime Minister Singh and his government aren't fools. They know U.S. concerns.

It just seems that increasingly we conduct a policy toward Iran designed for our domestic audience here--witness Senator Clinton's "obliteration" remark--with no sense of how this complicates our efforts to actually achieve something overseas.

Exactly .... Both the statements seemed to be for the respective domestic audiences ....

Plus the communists in India are still living in the 1970's .....
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