Thursday, November 26, 2009

New rocky road in Indo-US relations

The pageant and the thud of the jilt--that ended the romance: New rocky road in Indo-US relations

All of Bharat had gone all out in receiving the last two American presidents—it was time for the White House to return the favor to the Indians who had been good hosts. The ostentatious pageant in Washington, thrown in honor of Prime Minister of Bharat (aka India) will be known for many things—pomp and ceremony, a good payback to a generous hosts who hosted President Bush and President Clinton, a who’s who parade of known Indophiles in the US, flowery language, plenty of great wine and booze (the Indians have a great liking for Whiskey), great sea food complemented with vegetarian choices. John Travolta the best dancer in Hollywood did not take off with Mrs. Singh (like he did with Princess Diana), and Mr. Singh did not barf of President Obama (like Bush 41 had done on the Japanese Premier).

The guest list included political allies, a few opponents, celebrities and members of the Indian diplomatic community.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the list, but not her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Democratic colleagues of the president including other Cabinet ministers, several senators and top aides made the list, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (but not his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and White House Budget Director Peter Orszag.

State dinner are pompous affairs usually dictated by protocol and timing and how to repay the hosts for their state dinner. When Clinton had visited Bharat (aka India) Bharat had not just thrown a “state dinner”—it was a national celebration for the country. Indian are adept at many languages, 114 of their own, a couple of imported ones, but best of all they are very good at” schmooze”. The arrival of the “gora sahib” Clinton (with his penchant for pretty women) was heralded with more esteem than arrival of a new Viceroy during the British Raj.  Some say that the president did partake in some Indian curry (to use the local colloquialism). The Americans are not used to welcomed in such a manner---there are very few countries where the Yanks are liked so much (Kosova, Canada, the UK---and that's about it), so those who count “protocol-points” had a taken a mental note to treat their hosts in nice manner.

Mr. Singh did praise the president.

Obama's election was "an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of diversity, democracy and equal opportunity," Singh said, adding that India "warmly applauded" the Nobel Peace Prize awarded Obama this year for "the healing touch you have provided and the power of your idealism and your vision."

This week was payback time to return the hospitality.

The timing was just right, The Obama Administration has been taking a beating like a piñata from Congress and from the Republicans in general. The victims were at least two Democratic governors including the electorally important state of New Jersey.  The Afghan war is going horribly for President Obama, and he is ready to announce some major decisions in the lost war and how to go about face saving gestures “after the battle is lost and won and the hurly burly is done”.  The only wise American general in Kabul is unfortunately not wearing the American military uniform—he is running the role of Ambassador and “Save-the-royal-ass-of-Obama-in-Chief”. Fortunately, the words of the US Ambassador in Kabul may outweigh the general who is wearing the US uniform—General McChrystal who is playing the role of “I-wanna-be-just-like-my-defeated-generals-in-Vietnam” and keep asking for more troops.

In Washington it was time for verbosity that doesn’t mean anything, and hyperbole that means even less.

"To the future that beckons all of us," Obama said with glass raised toward his guest of honor, visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "Let us answer its call. And let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us."

The US Ambassador is working with the Pakistani generals, the ISI, and the stealth Saudi machinery to bring about a face-saving peace deal in Afghanistan. This is the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban have been offered at least six provinces—US recognition of the sovereignty of the provinces is the US offer for a safe exit and inclusion in the Central government. Mullah Omar has already offered a peace deal—“safe passage to withdrawing forces—a deal ridiculed by Bruce Riedel. As a hawk, Mr. Riedel once wanted break this confidence of the Taliban. Now the US is dealing exactly with this confidence. Ironically America is negotiating with the ex Afghan Ambassador to Islamabad, the person who was bundled off to Gitmo and tortured and kept in prison without trial for months.

In Wshington it was time paegentry—the menu reflected the season and and the mood.

A seasonal menu reflecting both American and Indian flavors started with a potato and eggplant salad made with White House-grown arugula and accompanied by an onion seed vinaigrette, according to the White House.

Red lentil soup with fresh cheese followed, and then a choice of entrees -- roasted potato dumplings with tomato chutney, chick peas and okra for vegetarians, or green curry prawns, caramelized salsify and smoked collard greens.

A look at the menu

Potato and eggplant salad
White House arugula with onion seed vinaigrette
2008 Sauvignon blanc Modus Operandi, Napa Valley, California
Red lentil soup with fresh cheese
2006 Riesling, Brooks "Ara"
Wilamette Valley roasted potato dumplings with tomato chutney
Chick peas and okra or green curry prawns with caramelized salsify with smoke collard greens and coconut aged basmati
2007 Grenache Beckman Vineyards, Santa Ynez, California
Pumpkin pie tart
Pear tatin
Whipped cream and caramel sauce
Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia
Petits fours and coffee
Cashew brittle
Pecan pralines
Passion fruit and vanilla gelees
Chocolate dipped fruit

As the saying goes, it was the “best of times”---but also the “worst of times”.  For all the pomp and ceremony the romance between the US and Bharat is coming down to an end. Gone are the good old Bush days when Delhi was being propped by the Neocons as a counterweight to China. Gone are the Clinton days when Delhi was goaded into exploding their half-hatched nuclear devices in Pokhran. Like the Pokhran firecrackers which turned out to be fizzles—the house that Bush built was a deck of cards—it came crashing down with the collapse of the economy. The US tax payers were left with the bills, and Beijing emerged as the new banker.

It was the best of times in Washington.

Dessert was pumpkin pie tart and pear tatin with whipped cream and caramel sauce. Each course was paired with a different wine, all of American vintage.

The herbs and lettuces were harvested from the White House Kitchen Garden started by Michelle Obama, with honey from the White House beehive used to poach the dessert pears.

Entertainment was by jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, Grammy and Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson, the National Symphony Orchestra directed by award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, Academy Award-winning Indian musician and composer A.R. Rahman, and The President's

It was the worst of times. After the song and dance in Washington, Mr. Singh will return with a “nuclear deal” which severely restricts its atomic ambitions, arrests the program, prohibits any new nuclear tests (to overcome the fizzles at Pokhran II). The announcement of the fizzles at Pokhran are emblematic of the fizzle in US Indian relations.

Just like the Pokhran fizzles, the notion of IndiaUS (USIndia) has been overtaken by ChiAmerica. The recent belligerency on along the McMohan line in the Himalays has totally destroyed any possibility of Chindia. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was trying hard convince Presidnet Obama that ChiAmerica was a bad idea and that democracy and pluralistic vision, hatred for terror whould be the prime ideals binding the countries together—as such America and India were “natural allies”. President Obama played the good host with laudatory comments to Mr. Manmohan Singh, and to Bharat as a whole—but---but—(its always the but kills the mood), as the CEO of America, Mr. Obama was beholden to the bankers of USA Inc—the ones in Beijing who hold more than a trillion Dollars of US debt. Mr. Obama also listened to Mr. Singh’s rhetorical diatribes on Pakistan, but politely rebuffed him by proclaiming that Pakistan was an important ally of Pakistan.

What President Obama didn’t announce publicly in front of the Bharati prime Minister was the fact that it was Islamabad that was saving America’s butt in Afghanistan and saving it from the sling by stitching together a face-saving mask for America and NATO. If it weren’t for the Pakistanis, the Obama one term presidency would be singing goodbye to a Democratic victory in the next elections.

Mr. Obama is constrained to listed to the hawks in the army and the Gung Ho “take-no-prisoners” conservatives in Congress. So he is between a rock (left leaning Democratic corp who want to end the war in Afghanistan) and a hard place (Ultra conservatives in Congress who want to continue the war and take it to Iran and Pakistan). It would a miracle if Mr. Obama can pull off a feat that pleases all sides—that is an impossibility. This much is certain, he may go for a small surge, a little bit of a peace deal, and plans for an exit strategy. This is as close to “a little bit pregnant” as it gets.

The pageantry in Washington not withstanding, ChiAmerica is the global power which divided the world into two parts, America-Europe and Asia-Africa. The US for obvious reasons gets the good parts (Europe and Americas) and China gets the Asia and Africa. Chipak will help China bring peace to Asia. Chindia is as dead as a doornail, and USPak will be handed over to China as Chipak. Chindia may exist as an economic entity of $60 billion, with China selling parts to Bharat, but that is as far as it goes. Geopolitically and in the realm of international relations Chindia exists as a drop in an ocean ruled by ChiAmerica.

It in these circumstances that Mr. Manmohan Singh was gulping down his Red and Blue label on ice.  Like Cindrella he was anxiously looking at the clock and hoping that midnight would not come soon. he wa wondering how much time will the Bhartis have to pack their bags once the Yanks have left Afghanistan. he was wondering, why he coudl not have been the recpient of the Nobel Peace prize. If it weren’t for the Pakistanis, and their obdurate obsession with Kashmir, he could have struck a deal with them and visited Oslo—now it was back tot he grind doing the chores for Sonia and being bombarded by the BJP and the RSS. While sucking a red Label soaked ice cubes, he was wondering why he hated these foreign trips—as much as he tried, he never relished the jjourney back home where he would be roasted in the Lok Sabha.

first big dinner," she said.

What makes a successful dinner? It's what you don't plan, Zantzinger said.

During a Reagan state dinner, Princess Diana and actor John Travolta took to the dance floor.

"What made it so special was that it was so absolutely spontaneous," she said. "You had one of the most beautiful women in the world and one of the best dancers in the world come together in this incredible place, and I think the spontaneity of it and the combination of the two of them was perfection."

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