Friday, 25 April 2014 | G Parthasarathy |
The US is India's most important and largest trading partner. Annual trade in goods and services is $120 billion. But this relationship is now facing challenges from threats of sanctions and from non-trade areas
Faced with growing domestic challenges from an assertive Republican Party, US President Barack Obama also faces a credibility deficit in his conduct of foreign and security policies. He is widely depicted domestically as being “weak” on issues of national security and foreign policy. The insensitive and transactional handling of relations with India is a symbol of the malaise which afflicts his second term as President. In fairness, allegations of his being “weak” and “indecisive”, are somewhat uncharitable. He faces accusations that he should have resorted to military force in Syria and beefed up the Nato alliance after the Russian actions in Crimea. He is also accused of being “weak” and vacillating in the face of Chinese military pressures against allies like Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. But, at the same time, he cannot ignore public weariness at recent military misadventures and large losses of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a larger perspective, the American establishment has yet to come to terms with the reality that unlike in the years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world order is today more democratised and no longer unipolar. American military involvement in Syria would have been counter-productive and resulted in a takeover of the country by Al Qaeda-linked Salafi extremists. Mr Obama acted wisely by listening to Russian advice on the subject, but then sought to undermine Russian influence in Ukraine, resorting to not-so-covert and clumsy means. He only found that while Right-wing Ukrainian mobs could forcibly takeover the capital Kiev, they would inevitably provoke President Vladimir Putin to retaliate in the Russian-dominated eastern Ukraine. The reintegration of Crimea with the Russian Federation and the takeover of cities in eastern Ukraine with large Russian populations, by armed Russian resistance inevitably followed. Moreover, Americans constantly threatening sanctions nowadays sound like the boy who cried ‘wolf’ too often!
Similar bungling in dealing with China’s growing assertiveness has cost the Obama Administration dearly, both domestically and internationally. After objecting to China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone, in violation of international norms, the Obama Administration meekly asked all its civilian airlines to observe Chinese demands on the ADIZ. Shockingly, this came just after Japan and South Korea refused to fall in line with Chinese demands. Moreover, while Tokyo has reacted strongly to Chinese transgressions of international law close to the disputed Senkaku Islands, which have been controlled by Japan since 1895, the US has spent time on counselling ‘restraint’ on Japan and nitpicking on issues pertaining to the Yasukuni Shrine.