20 March 2004

Powell took us for a ride: India

20 March 2004
The Times of India

Powell took us for a ride: India


NEW DELHI: Two days after the US ambushed India with the decision to upgrade its military relations with Pakistan, the Vajpayee government has come out with an official statement expressing "disappointment at not having been warned in advance by US secretary of state Colin Powell when he was in Delhi on March 16".

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"We have seen the statement made in Islamabad by the US secretary of state on March 18 on a prospective notification to the US Congress to designate Pakistan as a major non-Nato ally for the purposes of military-to-military relations," the official spokesperson of the external affairs ministry said on Saturday.

"The secretary of state was in India just two days before this statement was made in Islamabad. While he was in India, there was much emphasis on the India-US strategic partnership. It is disappointing that he did not share with us this decision of the US government," the external affairs ministry said.

As for the substantive part of Pakistan's impending MNNA status, the ministry said, "we are studying the details of this decision, which has significant implications for India-US relations. We are in touch with the US government in this regard."

Apart from External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Powell met Prime Minister Vajpayee, National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra and Finance Minister Jaswant Singh.

"I think it is fair to say he provided not even a hint of the bombshell he was about to drop as soon as he left our shores," a senior Indian official said.

In general, senior officials insist the designation Pakistan will get will not materially alter matters in the subcontinent.

They even feel it is more in the way of a lollipop for Pakistan, a sweetener to facilitate an even tougher military crackdown on al-Qaeda remnants.

"Musharraf can fling MNNA at MMA," a former foreign secretary joked, referring to the Islamist opposition grouping in Pakistan known for its pro-Taliban stand. "But we end up looking a little sheepish as if we've been taken for a ride by a clever salesman."

Officials are also a little irritated by Powell's apparent promise to consider giving India the same ally status.

"What's the point of saying that when they keep insisting US relations with India and Pakistan are not a zero-sum game? We are not looking for parity."

No comments: