ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Processes, Not Outcome


President Clintons eminently successful visit, the first to this country by a US president in 22 years, was, in part, a case of politics catching up with economics. The US is by far the largest single buyer of Indias exports, its share of our total exports having gone up from 14.7 per cent in 1990-91 to 21.8 per cent in 1998-99. In the latter year when India ran a deficit of Rs 34,495 crore in its total merchandise trade, it logged a surplus of Rs 15,503 crore in trade with the US and, of course, this figure did not include the huge net earnings from software exports of which again the US is the prime destination, even more overwhelmingly so than in the case of export of goods. Throw in the role of the US as also the principal source of capital inflows to India and the dramatic rise to salience of Indian computer professionals and persons of Indian origin in the US and we get a picture of the US as Indias most important international economic partner, with economic ties between the two countries having been transformed quantitatively and qualitatively in the decade of the nineties in the context of the progress of globalisation on the one hand and the deregulation and opening out of the Indian economy on the other. Clearly, political relations and diplomatic contacts between India and the US have nowhere near reflected this reality and the easy concordance and goodwill in evidence during president Clintons five-day stay to a great extent reflected the existence of this space waiting to be filled.

It is also true though that contacts between India and the US at the political and diplomatic level too have intensified, in the last two years especially. Ironically, the impetus for this change came from developments which on the face of things appeared to put the relationship between the two countries under severe strain: Indias nuclear tests of May 1998 and last years Kargil war with Pakistan. Most important have been the talks between Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh and US under-secretary of state Strobe Talbott which have gone through as many as 10 rounds. The effectiveness of these efforts was evident from the joint statement signed by the Indian prime minister and the US president, Clintons address to the two houses of parliament and his interview with ABC News. The US still wants India to sign the CTBT, but it does not expect that India can be pressurised to do so; instead the joint statement reaffirms our respective voluntary commitments to forgo further nuclear explosive tests. On a treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, the two countries have expressed their desire to work together. The shift in the US position on Kashmir, as reflected in Clintons remarks, has been widely noted. The US president emphasised the need to respect the line of control in Kashmir and to end support for cross-border violence and militancy, even agreeing that the latter was essential before any talks could meaningfully begin between India and Pakistan. In his ABC News interview he diluted the US position on the demand for a referendum in Kashmir with the comment that theres been a lot of changes since 1948 and confined US support essentially to some process by which the Kashmiris legitimate grievances are addressed.

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