India-US strategic dialogue: Possibilities and Challenges

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New Delhi, May 31 (ANI): The first India-US strategic dialogue is taking place amid the backdrop of incidents which see commonality of interests between the oldest and the largest democracies of the world.

After the arrest of Pakistani American Faisal Shehzad, the Times Square bomb plotter, the US is not only talking tough, but has even warned Pakistan about taking stern action. Reports suggest that Washington is rehearsing for launching attacks against suspected terrorists and insurgents on Pakistani soil.

This gives more room to India to make its point on the perils of the export of terror from Pakistan and further validates New Delhi's grave concern over the supply of sophisticated US arms to Pakistan.

So, when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna meet in Washington on the 3rd June, this issue is likely to be discussed in great detail.

Analysts believes that Shehzad incident has been a real eye opener and a wake up call for the Obama administration to rethink and recalibrate its Pakistan policy.

Traditionally, the US has not paid much heed to India's consistent apprehensions over the issue of transnational terrorism emanating from Pakistan which the US always see as an bilateral tussle the two South Asian countries, but post Time Square incident, Pakistan's main donor United States had become much more cautious and vigilant in dealing with Islamabad.

The situation emerging in Afghanistan would also be a key discussion point in the first Indo-US strategic dialogue, the US had already hailed Indian efforts in capacity building and training of afghan security, but reconciliation and reintegration of Taliban has remained a major point of divergence between the two countries.

Any form of Taliban, good or bad, is opposed to India 's presence in Afghanistan and poses a potential danger to Indian interest. But the US, which has already lost more than thousand of its soldiers in the conflict, is working out an exit plan from the war-torn country is more than convinced that reconciliation with Taliban is the only way out and is fully supporting president Kazrai peace Jirgas initiative.

Krishna and his team will have to walk an extra mile to convince the US on this count. India has deep fears that any kind of reconciliation with the Hekamatyars and Haqqanis, which are supported by Pakistani covert agencies that could help the Taliban back to power and prove fatal for Indian interests and the huge investments India has made in the embattled country.

In fact, a certain section of United States, is also not very comfortable with Indian presence in Afghanistan. The US military commanders have voiced concern that muscle-flexing by India could provoke Pakistan and stir up regional tensions.

"Increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India," wrote U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, who is in charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in a leaked assessment of the war last September.

India might not be a frontline military ally of US in the fight against terrorism but counter-terrorism is seen as an "urgent priority" matter by both the countries as it poses challenge to both India and the US . In fact cooperation in this aspect has intensified after Mumbai attacks, what signifies this this relationship is the fact that US has allowed India's National Investigative agency to get access to 26/11 mastermind David Headley.

US India would also be discussing future strategy to evolve regional cooperation between India, Iran and Russia the idea that is often propounded by US and NATO countries.

Iran, which is at loggers head with US over its nuclear programme share warm and cosy relationship with India due to its deep civilization and cultural links. like US and India , Alike India and United States, Iran also have equal interest in decimating terrorism from Afghanistan.

Foreign Affairs expert Saeed Naqvi recently wrote, "Iranians had even more interest than the Americans to see the demise of both, Al Qaeda and Taleban. For the Iranians, this Salafi, anti Shia Islam would remain a thorn in their side unless the two were eliminated.

US officials have already stated that the main purpose of the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue to think strategically and not to focus much on "deliverables."

Another significant aspect of the Indo US strategic dialogue will be the key set of meetings led by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who will hold a bilateral meeting on June 2 with her counterpart William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

She will also meet with Eric Hirschhorn, Under Secretary for Industry and Security at the Department of Commerce - likely to be a closely followed discussion as Ms.Rao and Mr. Hirschhorn co-chair the U.S.-India High Technology Cooperation Group.

The US-India Business Council will be hosting its 35th annual meeting, which will be addressed by Obama's top economic advisor Larry Summers and the education secretary. And then on the government-to-government level, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, and his counterpart Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, will oversee a very wide-ranging foreign policy dialogue that will cover Middle East, probably China, and many other topics.

The strategic dialogue will also be used as an opportunity to lay ground for the forthcoming visit of Presdent Barack Obama to India which is expected to take place in October- November.

The important issues of economic nature, like full and the practical implementation of the civil nuclear cooperation deal, which will fructify once nuclear liability bill is passed by Indian side, and the export of dual use technology, are also on the high priority list in the already overloaded agenda of the dialogue. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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