Ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to New Delhi in June, there was a lot of spin. Kerry would deliver strong messages about intellectual property said the pharma industry. The Indian Minister of External affairs would, we were assured, be dwelling on Indians having the right to work in the USA and on issues such as barriers to agricultural trade and Indian investment. A leading US publication talked about the incompetence of India’s foreign policy bureaucrats (see our earlier post). India’s press ran carefully-briefed pieces on the independence of India’s plans in the world.
Yesterday in The Hindu, India’s most serious daily, we got a definitive insider’s view of what was really discussed. Kanwal Sibal was the most senior Indian civil servant in the Ministry of External Affairs. He writes a lot now and has a distinctive set of views but you can be sure that his article was researched thoroughly with those in office now (although he is, of course, much too discreet to say so).
Predictably, the biggest issue was Afghanistan where the US is seen to be, “now disregarding India’s fundamental strategic doubts about politically rehabilitating the Taliban by dialoguing with it. The U.S. now seems open even to the Haqqani network’s participation in the political end-game in Afghanistan.”
The big surprise was the US focus on climate change. It seems to have caused big resentment on the Indian side. “The extraordinary emphasis on climate change issues by Mr. Kerry during his visit unnecessarily risks converting a complex global issue into a contentious bilateral one … The wisdom of creating a working group headed by Mr. Kerry and Mr. Khurshid to intensify bilateral efforts to address ‘forcefully’ this ‘urgent’ issue — which means increasing the weight of non-technical foreign policy considerations into bilateral discussions — is questionable.” writes Sibal