Fareed Zakaria: There is unease between America and India

November 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm (India, Politics)

Here are some of the key points from Fareed Zakaria’s current column in Newsweek:

“India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes to Washington this week for the first official state visit of the Obama presidency. There will be toasts and celebrations and many nice words said in public about the ties between the two great democracies. But underneath this lies an unease about the state of the relationship…

Fareed Zakaria was named editor of Newsweek International in October 2000, overseeing all Newsweek editions abroad. The magazine reaches an audience of 24 million worldwide.

“The more lasting danger is that the Obama administration, now intensely focused on the war in Afghanistan, will look at South Asia largely through that prism. Since Washington desperately needs Pakistan’s cooperation in that conflict, it is tending to adopt Pakistan’s concerns as its own, which is producing a perverse view of the region.
In his leaked report, Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures.” This is a bizarre criticism. India is the hegemon of South Asia, with enormous influence throughout the subcontinent. Its GDP is 100 times that of Afghanistan (that is not a typo). As Afghanistan opened itself up after the fall of the Taliban, the cuisine, movies, and money that flowed into the country were, naturally, Indian. This is like noting that the United States has had growing influence in Mexico over the last few decades…

“The Indian government’s aid to Afghanistan has mostly gone to build schools and infrastructure. And while New Delhi is trying to gain influence with the Kabul government, U.S. officials tell me that Indian intelligence has limited operations in Afghanistan. America can’t and should not want India to banish itself from its own subcontinent. In fact, India’s objectives are exactly aligned with America’s—to defeat the Taliban and to support the elected Afghan government.
Pakistan’s objectives, on the other hand, are not the same as Washington’s. Islamabad has long argued that it has a right to see a pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan…

“Generals like McChrystal—no matter how smart or tough—should not make policy, because they confuse the imperatives of the battlefield with a broader view. Obama must keep in mind that South Asia is a tar pit filled with failed and dysfunctional states, save for one long-established democracy of 1.2 billion people that is the second-fastest-growing major economy in the world, a check on China’s rising ambitions, and a natural ally of the United States. The prize is the relationship with India. The booby prize is governing Afghanistan.”

Full article here


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