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India nervous about Obama policies, says report

January 21, 2009

NEW DELHI, Jan 20: The Indian government is nervous about the policies the new US administration, headed by President Barack Obama, could pursue on Kashmir, CTBT and other tricky issues, which it didn’t worry about with the Bush presidency, the Mail Today reported on Tuesday.

“On Monday, a day before President-elect Obama formally takes charge as the 44th US president, India’s foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said he was ‘nervous’ about this change,” The Mail said.

It quoted senior analysts and Foreign Secretary Menon as expressing apprehensions about the Democratic administration.

“How much will the US change is a matter of speculation… I am nervous what this change will mean,” Mr Menon was quoted as saying during an interaction with university students in Delhi. An Indian foreign ministry spokesman denied Mr Menon made the comments.

The newspaper recalled that Mr Obama made it clear after he had won the presidential election that he would appoint a special envoy for Kashmir. Then, last week, in her testimony to the US Congress, Obama’s UN Ambassador-designate Susan Rice called Kashmir as one of the “global hot spots” and compared it to conflict areas such as the Golan Heights, the Balkan region, Liberia and East Timor. “In one of her earlier statements, Rice, the former foreign policy adviser to Obama, had said that Kashmir, along with Chechnya and Iraq, is an active recruiting ground for Al Qaeda,” the newspaper noted.

It noted that in her testimony to the US Senate on January 13, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration would support the bill the president-elect and Vice-President-elect Joe Biden had introduced last year to triple non-military aid to Pakistan.

India has consistently opposed the appointment of a special US envoy for Kashmir and it told British Foreign Secretary David Miliband last week that Kashmir was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

The Mail quoted former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal as saying that while it was natural for the US to give primacy to its strategic interests, “it does not mean India should sacrifice its national interests...This will undermine the Indo-US strategic partnership developed over years. India should not pay any price for the US Afghan policy.” India’s former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra also repeatedly said that Mr Obama’s personal involvement in the Kashmir issue would damage Indo-US relations.

On the other hand, a Congressional Research Service report has warned that the Obama administration should stay away from the Kashmir issue as it could anger India and raise Pakistan’s expectations. The Mail quoted the 19-page report, Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai, India and Implications for US Interests, as saying that the terror attacks on Mumbai could further complicate America’s South Asian policy.

Mr Sibal was wary that India might get drawn into President Obama’s Iran policy. “India has long-term strategic interests in Iran. We should not be seen being congruent to American policy on Iran.” Bilateral business ties, particularly Obama’s stand on outsourcing, could also emerge as another irritant. So could issues such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty,” he was quoted as saying.