Clinton's India visit reached no consensus on fighting terrorism

Updated: 2011-07-26 13:50

By Binod Singh (

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

India is back to singing and dancing just a week after three crude bombs killed 19 of its citizens in the financial hub of Mumbai. The occasion of this celebration was to greet one of the world's most powerful women, Hillary Clinton. Clinton is one of the US’s most travelled Secretaries of State, and the Asia Pacific region is a top itinerary priority. As per the information from the Indian foreign ministry, this was a routine visit as part of the strategic level dialogues initiated by Indian Foreign Minister Mr. Krishna.

According to media reports, top of Hillary's agenda was the contentious issue of the "Nuclear Liability Bill", which has been opposed by the US and some other countries and has not been resolved yet. On the Indian side, the issue of cross-border terrorism should have been on top of the agenda. But instead of posing some tough questions regarding the US's double standard policy of dealing with global terrorism, the Government of India chose to do normal business with Clinton. More or less, it became an occasion for dance and celebration of the two great democracies and no consensus was reached between the two countries on the issue of dealing with the situation in South Asia.

Her visit was overshadowed by the latest terrorist attack in Mumbai just a week ago. The timing of the latest attack sends a clear message to the US to rethink their South Asian policy. If we recall, 36 innocent Kashmiri Hindus were killed on the eve of her husband and the then President Bill Clinton’s maiden visit to India in 2000. Since then, incidents of terrorism in this part of the world have risen sharply and had claimed thousands of innocent lives.

In the last decade, the two-step-forward and one-step-backward policy of the US while dealing with the issue of international terrorism, has left the people of South Asia in a real quagmire. When it comes to eradicating global terrorism in this region, the US is not just part of the solution, but it is also the part of the problem. Since 9/11, by launching the "War on Terror", the US has radicalized the whole Islamic world including Muslim youth in India, who are well educated and part of mainstream society.

Although after 9/11, the US claims to be successful in ensuring the security of their homeland. But since then, its allies in Europe have been made vulnerable to the Islamic terror. There have been terrorist attacks in Spain, the UK, and several attempts on other countries. India, which is not a US ally, has been one of the worst victims of global Jihad. It is because the Islamic terrorist organizations have grouped the country along with Israel and the US in their main target list. The Indian Mujahideen (IM), the organization which is suspected to have carried out the latest attacks in Mumbai, is now vying for international recognition as a terrorist group.

The recent Mumbai attacks should not be seen as an attack just on India, where it is relatively easy to sneak into the country and create considerable damage to its innocent civilians. As the previous 26/11 attack and Pune City’s German Bakery attack have shown, the terrorists want Westerners in India as their victims, especially the Americans and Jews. The attack sends a clear message that the South Asia region is still in the grip of Islamic radicals led by Al-Qaida, LeT and factions of Taliban in the AfPak region.

Clinton's agenda also included the postwar reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is clear that in the case of complete withdrawal of the NATO forces by 2014, the region will be left in complete anarchy. It is hoped that NATO may delegate the job of maintaining peace to the UN and also ask other countries such as India, China, Russia, Pakistan and even Iran to be involved in the postwar reconstruction. It may also imply indirectly asking for Indian presence in Afghanistan when the US will complete its withdrawal.

It is well studied and recognized that India has a stake in ensuring the peaceful transition of Afghanistan and supporting the national reconstruction under civilian leadership. But India has already paid a heavy price when its embassy staff and engineers were attacked and killed by the agents of the neighboring country. This neighbor is totally opposed to any involvement of India in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. However, India has continued to assert its role there, and Prime Minister Singh’s regular contact with President Hamid karzai testifies to this commitment. Also, it has to be noted here that, India is the largest civilian donor to Afghanistan in terms of aid and technical support.

In the current Obama administration, Clinton has emerged as one of the most vocal proponent of the "China balancing" theory. In her official press conference in India, Clinton pressed India to play a leading role in Asia-Pacific region, which directly or indirectly hints at the balancing of China’s rising influence in the region. Clinton’s speech in Africa, and now in Asia clearly hints at the US concern about its receding influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Time and again, she has been successful in instigating the media to chant the “China threat theory.”

Overall, Indo-US relations have improved over the last decade, but it will be an exaggeration to say that India is a US ally in the region. A 2005 Indo-US civil nuclear deal did not change the status of the Indo-US strategic relationship in a large way. The latest visit of Clinton was just a routine one. The emerging new relationship between the two democracies is only a late recognition of their converging interest in combating global terrorism sponsored by state and non-state actors. There is a long way to go for before an Indo-US strategic relationship, and it will be immature to prejudge it at this stage.

The author is of Indian origin and teaches at the School of Asian and African Studies of the Beijing Foreign Studies University. He can be reached at