“India Can Expect Open Policy From Obama”

31 January 2009
The Hindu

New Delhi: Noting that the Barack Obama administration was taking U.S.-India relations very seriously, the former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Teresita Schaffer, has said that India can expect an open policy from Mr. Obama’s team. She was initiating a roundtable discussion on “India and U.S.: What Lies Ahead” at the Observer Research Foundation here. Ms. Schaffer, Director of the South Asia Program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, wanted the U.S. to develop “techniques and vocabularies to deal with India’s strategic autonomy and its wariness about getting too close to the U.S. in policy terms.” Both the countries should develop techniques to deal with each other and take the relations to strategic terms in future, she suggested. Ms. Schaffer said that India and the U.S. had common interests in the evolving balance of power in Asia – in energy security, maritime security, climate change and peaceful and the harmonious rise of China. There was a big window of opportunity for both countries to reshape the global non-proliferation system in the wake of the India-U.S. nuclear deal. Ms. Schaffer said Mr. Obama’s policy-makers have admitted that the big threat of nuclear proliferation was not from India but from countries such as Iran and North Korea. Mr. Obama would bring “new dynamics” at the United Nations but she did not foresee “dramatic changes” in the short-term although the negative U.S. attitude might not continue forever. India-Pakistan dispute Ms. Schaffer said policy-makers in the U.S. see the India-Pakistan dispute as one of the world’s major unresolved issues and Kashmir as part of this problem. Managing Pakistan was one of the challenges of Obama administration but the disadvantages of a civilian government in Pakistan was that the Army was a separate actor. She wanted the Pakistan Army to be taken along in some fashion to solve the India-Pakistan disputes. “It is a big political challenge,” she noted. Ms. Schaffer was hopeful that the new U.S. government would be “very supportive” in helping to solve the India-Pakistan problem, but “if nothing happens, it would be nervous about it.”