May 29, 2009 12:07 pm


While advocating" conversations" with sworn enemies the new administration neglects allies. Gibbs disses the entire British press, once again Obama fails to include Israel in his PRESIDENTIAL visit to the Middle East, Buchenwald is an unsettling substitution, to say the least, relations with Germany are poor and disillusioned Indians see "Hazardous days ahead." Former Democratic defense secretary, Bill Cohen could not agree more

During the cold war, the US struck an alliance with Pakistan while India forged close ties with the Soviet Union, straining the relationship between Delhi and Washington. After the cold war ended some progress was made, but relations were set back after India’s 1998 nuclear tests resulted in the imposition of US sanctions. In 2000 President Bill Clinton made a historic visit to India, where he delivered a clear message that the US wanted to forge a new partnership. George W. Bush built on this foundation, lifting sanctions and improving ties in education, agriculture, trade, high technology, clean energy, civil aerospace and defence. He also signed and secured Congress backing for a historic civil nuclear co-operation agreement.

Now Mr Obama has a chance to take these ties to a new level. With a strong and stable government in New Delhi, he will have a reliable partner that wants to work with America and has the power to deliver in a number of critical areas. But the Indians are waiting for a signal from Washington that the new president is interested in furthering the relationship and that the US is committed for the long term.

India is worried about Chinese military build-up.

Talking to HT, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said India was rapidly upgrading its fighter bases in the country’s northeast to boost its military deterrence against China.

“China is a totally different ballgame compared to Pakistan,” the air chief said. “We know very little about the actual capabilities of China, their combat edge or how professional their military is…they are certainly a greater threat.”

The Chinese air force is ridding itself of obsolete platforms from the 1960s such as the J-6 and J-7 (equivalent to MiG-19s and MiG-21s). The People’s Liberation Army Air Force is pushing full steam ahead with the induction of first-rate fighter jets such as Sukhoi-30s, JF-17 Thunder light combat aircraft, J-10 strike fighters, airborne early warning aircraft and midair refuellers to expand the operating radius of its fighter jets.

India worries that she is being encircled by China:

Events in Sri Lanka, as that nation finally brings an end to a quarter-century-long civil war, are the latest example of China's growing overseas reach. The victory of the Sri Lankan Government was assisted by the supply of arms from China, especially fighter jets, as The Times revealed on May 2, while the Chinese are also building a spanking new port on the southern coast of the country, which the Chinese Navy will be able to use for refuelling and repairs.

This is part of a broad move by China into the Indian Ocean, which India has traditionally considered its sphere of influence. Chinese engineers are building another port at Gwadar in Pakistan; roads are being cut or improved through Burma to help trade routes between Yunnan province in China and the Indian Ocean; ties are being improved with island nations such as the Seychelles; surveillance stations are being sited or upgraded on Burmese islands.

India hoped that its strategic partnership with the US will help it balance China but the weakness projected by the Obama administration and it's preference of China also evidenced by the Obama administration asking China to assist Pakistan in countering Taliban is understandably unnerving Indian strategists.

I suspect the Obama administration will change it's mind in this as in other matters but not before it damages India trust in the US and gladdens the heart of Russian fans in India.

Also see, Robert Kaplan on Power Plays in the Indian Ocean

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