Trump admin has neglected relationship with India: former US diplomat

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Washington:

US President Donald Trump has neglected the country’s vital relationship with India unlike his predecessors George W Bush and Barack Obama, a former diplomat has alleged, ahead of the crucial 2+2 dialogue on Thursday in New Delhi.

The twice-delayed dialogue was earlier scheduled for July 6 in Washington, but was postponed by the US on June 27, citing “unavoidable reasons”.

“The future is very bright for both countries, but the United States must fully prioritise and expertly execute on this relationship,” former US ambassador to India Tim Roemer said in an op-ed in the Foreign Policy magazine on Tuesday.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are being hosted in Delhi by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. This is the first ever 2+2 talks between the two nations.

“It is essential that it devote sufficient time and consistent effort towards anticipating problems and implementing an overall strategy that helps deepen this growing relationship and facilitate abiding trust moving forward,” he said.

Roemer, who was a top US diplomat in the previous Obama administration, said it is a telling sign of how little the Trump administration has prioritised India that this critical relationship, where both sides stand to heavily benefit, is not moving steadily forward.

“While the partnership has stalled in Washington, it is still seen as critical in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political and foreign-policy interests in deepening US ties are clear.

“While he is delicately balancing relations in his geographic neighbourhood with recent tensions with China in Doklam and arms sales with Russia, Modi sees a bright future with the United States,” he said in the op-ed.

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The former diplomat said Modi displayed savvy instincts during his visits to the US, meeting and courting the Indian diaspora with packed town meetings.

“He has also valued the United States as an advocate for India’s permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, sought out access to cyber security cooperation to ensure progress in a growing e-commerce sector, acknowledged a growing reliance on the US liquified natural gas to bring clean energy to an overly polluted country, and emphasized a mutual commitment to democratic values,” Roemer wrote.

In another article in the magazine, think-tank scholars Atman Trivedi and Aparna Pande argued that just as the US is warming up to India, India is starting to get cold feet about the whole idea.

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“Despite efforts by Mattis and others to impose a strategic direction and invest in strengthening ties, there are plenty of fresh doubts in New Delhi.

“In the short term, that unease has been stirred by Trump’s economic nationalism and the White House’s unreliability. But something more significant, the longer-term direction of US foreign policy may be making India cautious,” they wrote.

In an article in The Diplomat, Raymond E Vickery, a former assistant US secretary of commerce, said the Trump administration is to be lauded for its efforts to make up for lost time with regard to the US-India 2+2 strategic dialogue.

“However, the administration will need to supplement the 2+2 with a forward-leaning and consistent US-India economic initiative if it is to achieve substantive progress in making the US-India strategic partnership as important as it should be,” he said.

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