There are two important outcomes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the United States, and they concern the region and the world.
There are two important outcomes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the United States, and they concern the region and the world. Indeed, it is hard not to discern a unity running through the two with the theme of Pakistan-based terrorism dominating the PM’s discourse in the US. The issue was highlighted in Dr Singh’s address to the UN General Assembly, and ran through his summit meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday as well as his meeting on Sunday with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Prime Minister spoke of the “terrorism machinery” that has taken hold in Pakistan and acts as the principal obstacle to the pursuit of peace and cooperation between the two countries. Evidently, the PM took the opportunity to meet Mr Sharif to put India’s case across bluntly. This was not something that peaceniks might have hoped for, and the exchange reaffirmed that tools of diplomacy can be put to good effect, although many here were sceptical that Dr Singh would be the one to accomplish this in the light of his perceived softness towards the idea of talking peace alone with Pakistan. It was satisfying to see the PM make the point that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, and that any discussion on Kashmir can only be held through peaceful bilateral dialogue in the spirit of the Shimla Agreement. The underlying meaning is clear: that talks on J&K cannot be about territory, but about normalising economic and cultural ties with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as in the days of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. In his meeting with President Obama too, Dr Singh made it clear that expectations in respect of Pakistan would have to be kept modest so long as cross-border terrorism did not end. India’s strong views on the issue was forcefully communicated to all concerned when Mr Obama condemned the recent terrorist attack in Samba in the Jammu area. Belying the Cassandras, India-US bilateral ties appear to be in reasonably good nick, going by Dr Singh’s convivial meeting with Mr Obama and the joint statement that followed. The two leaders subscribed to the notion of a “comprehensive global strategic partnership” with the deepening of engagement across the board, particularly in matters relating to defence and security. This is a good signal to send worldwide, and in the region, although it is important to note that two large democracies will continue to have points of difference as well as variations in emphasis on key bilateral, regional and global issues. It is not clear if the Prime Minister passed up the opportunity to raise with President Obama the issue of intensive electronic snooping by America’s National Security Agency against this country.