The Hoagland Opinion – An Intelligent, Insightful & Must-Read Article

Jim Hoagland, a contributing editor to the Washington Post, wrote an article this week titled As Obama bets on Asia, regional players hedge. Mr. Hoagland is a respected columnist with deep contacts. He is an intelligent man and he tries to be analytical as well as dispassionate. So we read what Jim Hoagland writes.

This article by Mr. Hoagland is a must read in our opinion. We provide a few excerpts below:

  • Asia forms the crossroads of success or failure for Barack Obama’s grandest foreign policy designs. This impression has crystallized over a year in which the president has shown himself indifferent to Europe, sentimental and somewhat conflicted about Africa, perplexed by the Middle East and largely oblivious to Latin America.
  • Obama’s choices about China, India, Japan and Pakistan loom at least as large as the urgent challenges of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Asia’s giants, India and China, present differing and opposed models of international cooperation.
  • Romanced by the Bush administration to balance China’s inexorable rise in military and economic power, India finds itself out of sync with the Obama administration on some key issues. There is no open conflict. But neither is there the air of excitement and innovation about the U.S. relationship that I found on my last trip here 18 months ago.
  • Obama’s emphasis on setting an initial date for withdrawal from Afghanistan in his Dec. 1 policy speech, even as he sent additional U.S. troops, stirred doubt here about U.S. strategic patience. So have the frequent U.S. military visits to and overblown praise for Pakistan’s army leadership, despite credible evidence of high-level Pakistani involvement in cross-border terrorism directed at India.
  • India has recently moved troops away from the Pakistan frontier while increasing deployments into border areas that China is claiming in pugnacious and offensive rhetoric. In a break with its past opposition to foreign bases in the region, India has secured military transit and stationing rights at an airbase in Tajikistan. And Singh’s government lavishly welcomed Japan’s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, on a recent three-day visit that included publicity about plans for joint military maneuvers in the Indian Ocean.
  • These are clear signs of Indian hedging: seeking allies for worst-case scenarios while accommodating China on economic matters. The Obama administration’s failure to reaffirm clearly that India’s rise is in U.S. strategic interests has contributed to this hedging. That is a mistake the president should quickly correct, in the interests of his own vision of a new world order centered on the Pacific and Indian oceans.

There are other more clear cut signs of hedging. One such sign was discussed in detail in our article President Bush Proposes & President Obama Disposes? India-Russia Sign a Landmark Nuclear Deal.

The reality is that President George Bush had the vision to build a long-term strategic partnership between America & India. President Obama does not think in these terms. His focus in inwards. His instincts are short term and tactical in nature.

The other reality is that President Obama thinks that the world has expectations of his Presidency and his dream is to fulfill these expectations by ridding the world of nuclear weapons and by implementing a strict climate control regime. This is a Nehruvian approach and that is why we asked in July 2009 Is President Obama America’s Jawaharlal Nehru? In contrast, like President Reagan, President Bush simply wanted to ensure America’s global predominance in the 21st century. 

Today’s India is getting closer to President Reagan’s approach while President Obama is steering America towards the Nehru approach. This simple reality is the underlying reason for the current disquiet in America-India relations. 

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