Posts Tagged ‘ George W. Bush ’

All American Muslims Better Get Ready for a New Reality

By Nida Khan for The Huffington Post

While many Muslims (and people outside the faith for that matter) were heavily embedded in a debate over the controversy surrounding hardware store Lowe’s and its recent decision to remove ads from TLC’s reality show All American Muslim, a more detrimental attack against their future was all but finalized. Reversing an earlier decision to veto provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012, President Obama made the disturbing announcement that he would sign this legislation into law and thereby solidify the ability of the military and other factions to indefinitely detain anyone they deem an enemy of the state. And on New Year’s Eve, the President unfortunately made good on this promise with the stroke of his pen. At a time when the United States is grossly engaged in both active combat and covert drone campaigns in a multitude of Muslim nations, and when loosely defined terms like ‘terrorist’ can be arbitrarily thrown about, Muslims specifically — and all of society generally — shouldn’t take this disturbing development lightly.

In post-9/11 America, many have sadly grown accustomed and tolerant to routine practices of racial profiling, bias and even attacks against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim. But in addition to blatant violence, workplace discrimination and subliminal acts of racism, Muslims have also become aware of another nuance that other Americans may not even realize exists — hesitation to give to charity. Because of fear that any charitable Muslim organization or mosque could suddenly be called out for links to a lone extremist faction (whether it’s justified or not), many pulled their money and cut back on donations to the extent that long-established charities found it virtually impossible to survive. Usually without any valid reason, many stopped supporting Muslim aide groups for the simple notion that anyone, anywhere could at any moment single out that organization and in turn put all those who gave money out of goodwill at risk for associating with them. The victims in all this? The impoverished and destitute in many “third world” countries.

At the same time, tragically, other active Muslims who were entrenched in the community or worked in an organizing capacity (much like our president once did for the disenfranchised), ceased their activities over trepidation as to how their efforts towards equality could one day be misconstrued for something nefarious. The climate of society forced many followers of the Islamic faith to alter their involvement on a plethora of levels. Even today, as forces like the NYPD keep Muslims under intrusive surveillance and continued cases of FBI entrapment emerge, many have stopped attending mosques or interacting too much within the community out of sheer apprehension over unwarranted government action. It is an unfortunate reflection of how marginalized groups often times suffer under the radar without a representative voice in government and in the mainstream.

Throughout modern history, we’ve had other instances of outrageous fear mongering, bias and injustice against those whose patriotism we questioned. Though it is rarely covered in classrooms, the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese and those of Japanese ancestry during WWII is a perfect example. Literally rounded up and “excluded” from living in the cities and towns they resided in, these “suspicious” individuals were interned in camps because their allegiance to the country “could not be determined.”

In 1950, at the height of the great red scare, Congress passed the Internal Security Act which required the American Communist Party, affiliated organizations and all ‘subversives’ to get fingerprinted and officially register with the Attorney General. This draconian law was so outrageous that then-President Harry Truman even vetoed it (though Congress overruled his veto in the end). The truly tragic and troubling thing about today’s NDAA is that President Obama isn’t even attempting to veto it anymore; he is instead giving it his stamp of approval. Even though the president stated that he has “serious reservations” regarding the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists, and even though he emphasizes that his administration will not indefinitely militarily detain American citizens without trial, what happens after he is no longer in office? Future leaders of the free world, after all, have absolutely no obligation to honor Obama’s signing statement, nor follow in his footsteps.

Yes, our first African American president has changed much of the vitriolic language used when covering the topic of terrorism, and yes he has taken great caution to ensure that Muslims and terror itself are not juxtaposed together. For that, he should be commended. But by finalizing the ability of any president to deem persons — including U.S. citizens (if they so interpret this bill) — an enemy that could then be indefinitely detained without charge or without trial, he sets into motion a frightening precedent. As a former constitutional law professor, President Obama should be inherently aware of the impending ramifications.

During the struggle for civil rights, many journalists, activists and those vocal citizens working alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and other leaders suddenly found themselves targeted for their activities. Countless advocates became political prisoners and others saw their careers and lives ruined. Now at a time when we already have legislation like the Patriot Act renewed, and warrantless wiretapping is openly put into practice, this defense act not only indoctrinates AUMF (2001 Authorization for use of Military Force) and many activities that were previously in existence, but it also leaves open the possibility of silencing anyone on a level with which we never even imagined.

As American Muslims, we’re happy that some are starting to ease the negative imaging and stereotyping against us, and are instead open to learning more about what the Islamic faith truly stands for. As a routinely alienated group, we’re overly ecstatic when a program like All American Muslim actually portrays us in a light other than that of some extremist radical. But while we should embrace the boycott of Lowe’s for its open bigotry, and praise folks like Russell Simmons for stepping up to the plate to purchase ads for the program, we should put just as much focus into the potential of someone like a Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum taking over the White House and having full reign to detain whomever he pleases. Just remember the Bush-era verbiage of “you’re either with us or against us” and the atmosphere of intolerance that permeated under his presidency, and couple that with the ability of someone with his mentality being able to willfully determine any one of us a “traitor,” lock us up and throw away the key.

If Muslims scaled back their activities in the community and their charitable donations out of paranoia over the unrealistic possibility of being tied to something suspicious, just imagine the fear that will ensue if anyone can be instantly and militarily detained over accusations where the burden of proof won’t even be on the accuser. It is indeed an alarming scenario that can (and in all likelihood will) give new meaning to the term reality — no TV required.

Nida Khan is an independent journalist and producer working in print, radio and TV. As a news correspondent for WRKS 98.7 Kiss FM NY, she has covered everything from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign to protests for the defense of Sean Bell.

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Our Man in Pakistan?

By Ed Husain for The Council on Foreign Relations

His close proximity to former U.S. president George W. Bush earned him the popular moniker, “Busharraf.” So it was with some intrigue that I went to hear Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, address a prestigious and influential U.S. audience at a packed meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations’ headquarters in New York this week.

I was struck by what was, essentially, his appeal for U.S. political sponsorship of his bid to contest elections in Pakistan next year. He spoke eloquently about the poor state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the need for a peace settlement with elements of the Taliban, and his country’s—and his own—unhelpful Machiavellian attitude toward India and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the following facts left me worried:
First, for a man who prosecuted the war on terror with such vigor, it was unforgivable for him to say to an Indian journalist who asked about Pakistan’s export of terrorism, ‘Sir, your terrorist is someone else’s freedom fighter.” This moral equivocation is the same justification used by terrorists to inflict harm on innocent lives around the world. Musharraf should know better.

Second, a major cause for widespread, ongoing anti-American radicalization in Pakistan is the CIA-led drone attacks in the country’s tribal regions. Musharraf did not make any references to the drones, their many innocent victims, and the perceived violation of Pakistani sovereignty. It would have been wiser to reassure the audience that a Pakistan under his control would be a nation in which the United States would not need to use drones because terrorists would be brought to justice. Ignoring the issue of drones is self-defeating all around.

Third, his confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal is safe is questionable. The premise of his assurance was that extremists seeking access to these weapons would need to fight elite battalions of the Pakistani armed forces. The assumption there, of course, is that the Pakistani army is immune from extremism. Sadly, that thinking is flawed. Since General Zia’s time, and increasingly so in recent years, Islamist radicalization within Pakistan’s armed forces has been a cause for concern.

It wasn’t all bad. Fortunately, he spoke somewhat candidly about the economic and energy generation challenges faced by Pakistan. My colleague Isobel Coleman, who was also in attendance, has analyzed his remarks on her thoughtful blog, “Democracy in Development.”
With Imran Khan and Pervez Musharraf both gearing up for elections in Pakistan in 2013, the next two years will be eventful and heated in Pakistan’s fractious political landscape.

Pakistan Leaders Must Make Choice After Clinton’s Warning

By The Bloomberg News Editorial Board

When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan last week, she noted that U.S.- Pakistani relations were at a turning point after the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was up to the Pakistanis, she said, to decide “what kind of country they wish to live in.”

The brutalized body of investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, which turned up outside of Islamabad on May 31, may provide a clue to the answer.
Shahzad disappeared after publishing the first of two promised articles linking elements of the Pakistan navy to al- Qaeda following a deadly May 22 attack on a Karachi naval station. Last fall, after being questioned about a different story by Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Shahzad wrote that he was threatened by the spy agency.

Alternatively, it could be that foul play like Shahzad’s murder will become a thing of the past in Pakistan. While in Islamabad May 27, Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen demanded authorities take “decisive steps” to crush the violent extremists the government has long supported, which would end the need to intimidate journalists who expose that support. Whichever way the Pakistan government goes, the May warnings by the U.S. ought to be the last.

The U.S. administration has continued to insist, as President Barack Obama did in a May 22 interview with the BBC, that the Pakistanis have “generally been significant and serious partners against the terrorist threat to the West.” This simply isn’t the case.

Victim, Sponsor

For much of the past decade, Pakistan has been both a victim and a sponsor of Islamic militants. Its soldiers are fighting bravely against homegrown terrorists seeking to install an Islamic government. In 20 attacks in May, these radicals killed some 150 people.

At the same time, the Pakistani army, led by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is a longstanding patron of violent groups targeting Afghanistan and India.
Guided by excessive fear bordering on paranoia about India, Pakistan’s military and intelligence services believe that nurturing those extremists is an effective way to frustrate India’s regional ambitions. The ISI largely created and continues to support the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the principal groups battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the fledgling government in Kabul. It also backs Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.

Double-Dealing

President George W. Bush’s administration tried to end this double-dealing by giving Pakistan billions in economic and military assistance. Yet Bush didn’t make the aid contingent on a crackdown on extremists. The Pakistanis cooperated somewhat with U.S. efforts to dismantle al-Qaeda but refused to act against other groups, including the Afghan Taliban, which was given refuge inside Pakistan’s borders.

The Obama administration accelerated the failed Bush policy, substantially increasing military and economic assistance, again without imposing rigorous conditions. And Pakistan continued to ignore administration warnings about continued support for extremists.
In one incident reported by the Washington Post, Obama’s first national security adviser, James Jones, warned officials in Islamabad that there would be “consequences” if a terrorist attack directed at the U.S. was traced to Pakistan. Yet when a man who had trained at a terrorist camp in that country attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010, the U.S. administration did nothing. Shortly thereafter, Obama watered down Jones’s words, telling Kayani that a “successful” attack would have consequences.

Meaning Business

So when U.S. authorities learned that Osama bin Laden might be housed in a villa in a Pakistani garrison town, they dispatched Navy Seals to capture or kill him without so much as notifying the Pakistanis in advance. The raid provoked great outrage from officials in Pakistan. Since then, emotions have cooled. Clinton and Mullen have delivered their warnings, public and private. And this time, the Americans may mean business.

Will the Pakistanis respond?

Shahzad’s murder is a bad sign. On the other hand, reports from Pakistani tribal leaders suggest that the Pakistani army may be preparing a serious campaign in North Waziristan, where the leaders of the Haqqani Network and other extremist groups live.
It will soon be clear whether Clinton’s latest message got through. If not, the administration must consider new ways to persuade Pakistan to change course, recognizing that the country is behaving more like an adversary than a partner.

The Tangled Reality of US/Pakistan Relations

By Mark Urban for The BBC

WASHINGTON – The current crisis in US/Pakistan relations is not the first – but it is the most difficult one since 9/11, and it could easily be aggravated further by the intelligence arising from the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.

For this reason, Washington insiders are not so sure that diplomatic moves to ease the problem will succeed.

Senator John Kerry has just been in Islamabad asking for “action not words” from the Pakistani authorities. He says he has gained some agreement for practical steps but, apart from gaining the return of remnants of the US helicopter that was destroyed at the compound, has not yet specified what these might be.

This morning he and other members of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will be holding hearings on Pakistan, including the question of how the billions given in aid could be used more effectively to buy the kind of counter terrorist cooperation that the Americans are after.

Juan Zarate, counter terrorist adviser to President George W Bush, argues that the kind of benchmarks that congressmen have advocated in the past for linking aid to performance on specific actions against militant groups could prove counter-productive in the short term because the Pakistanis consider this “humiliating”.

He poses the further question, “what happens tomorrow if we have to go after Ayman al-Zawahiri?”, referring to the former Al Qaeda number two and presumed leader after Bin Laden’s death.

The question of what leads are thrown up by the intelligence trove from the raided Abottabad compound is now in itself a key factor in whether Mr Kerry and members of President Barack Obama’s administration are able to soothe the relationship. Myriad questions arise from the material seized on flash drives and laptops.

Pakistani officials insist there was no contact between their Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bin Laden – but what about possible ties with the courier who owned the house and was the key figure in sheltering him?

Will phone numbers leading to ISI officials be found in Bin Laden’s effects? Will there be intelligence that allows the CIA to quickly pinpoint Dr al-Zawahiri or other key figures who might now take control of Al Qaeda?

John McLaughlin, deputy director of the CIA until 2004, argues that even in this current difficult moment for US/Pakistan relations, America will reserve the right to act unilaterally against terrorist targets in Pakistan.

He believes though that ties can slowly be re-built with Pakistan, despite the fact that the raid, mounted without their leaders’ foreknowledge, gave them their “biggest shock for a generation”.

At previous moments of tension between the two countries, accommodations have been found. Intelligence about Al Qaeda suspects has flowed or the army has been sent in to one of the restive tribal areas on the Pakistan border. The US has signed off on new aid payments.

What tends to happen though is that within months, the Americans again accuse the Pakistanis of foot dragging in the fight against militancy, and Islamabad for its part counters with arguments that the US routinely violates its sovereignty.

The tangled reality of the situation is made worse by the fact that Pakistani ministers, mindful of anti-American sentiment in their country, will often not admit publicly to their agreement to drone strikes or other steps. Many people I have spoken to here compare the relationship to a dysfunctional marriage in which both sides need one another but find the reality of daily life increasingly unbearable.

There are those who see ways though in which the two countries might navigate their way through the perfect storm of recrimination and resentment that the Bin Laden operation has produced.

Juan Zarate and some others believe that if the materials seized in the raid produce some nugget of intelligence that leads to the discovery of Dr al-Zawahiri or other key figures, the US may chose to trust the Pakistanis with this knowledge, and make them partners in acting upon it.

If the exploitation of the intelligence went wrong and a leak was suspected the US could use this to place further pressure on Pakistani ministers. But if it all went well, trust might be re-built. The problem is though that there are many within the secret side of US counter terrorism who, because of the way that Osama Bin Laden hid for years where he did, are no longer prepared to take that risk.

After Bin Laden Raid, Might US-Pakistan Cooperation Get Better?

By Howard LaFranchi for The Christian Science Monitor

The United States launched a drone strike targeting militants in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan Friday, raising tantalizing questions in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death.

And does the drone strike suggest, despite official Pakistani protests to the contrary, that cooperation between the two countries not only continues but may in fact end up enhanced by Sunday’s operation, which was an embarrassment for Pakistan?

It was impossible to know if the strike, which reportedly killed at least eight suspected militants gathered in a house in North Waziristan, resulted from any information seized Sunday, since word of the strike came from Pakistani military officials.

But the drone attack appeared to bolster the argument, voiced by a wide range of regional and intelligence experts, that the US would be able to use Sunday’s raid to pressure Pakistani officials to side more unequivocally with the US in battling Islamist extremists.

Also on Friday, Yemeni officials reported that a drone strike there killed two Al Qaeda operatives.

Drone strikes have been a contentious issue in US-Pakistan relations. But it is also true that a considerable increase over the past year in US strikes inside Pakistan by the unmanned aircraft has not led to a breach in the bilateral relationship.

“It was proper for Obama not to publicly rub Pakistan’s nose in” the embarrassment of having bin Laden discovered in the country, says Paul Pillar, who now directs security studies at Georgetown University in Washington after a long career in US intelligence. “But in private, they owe us something…. We do expect more cooperation.”

That perspective is riding high in Washington – especially among those security analysts and former officials who consider the relationship with Pakistan, difficult as it is, too vital for the US to simply throw up its hands and leave.

If anything, the bin Laden operation should pave the way for the US to develop closer intelligence and military ties to Pakistan, says Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan and former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

An advantage for the US coming out of the successful raid, he says, is that America looks competent and like it may be a good friend to have in the battle with extremism.

“For the people sitting on the fence, it’s like, ‘They [the US] may be really getting good at this, and maybe now is the time to make a decision to get closer,’” said Mr. Hoekstra, speaking Thursday at a discussion on Pakistan at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Dov Zakheim, a former deputy Defense secretary under President George W. Bush, agrees that the enhanced US stature after the raid should be leveraged to win stronger cooperation from countries like Pakistan that have hedged their bets about America’s staying power.

The successful operation against bin Laden “tells the world we’re not a spent power, we’re not a declining power,” said Mr. Zakheim, speaking Tuesday at a Center for the National Interest forum in Washington. “There’s a message there about US military power that is terribly important.”

Few experts in the bilateral relationship believe that Pakistan knew absolutely nothing about bin Laden’s whereabouts. But Mr. Pillar of Georgetown guesses that in the end, it may be learned that Pakistani officials simply didn’t want to know about something that existed right under their noses.

“My guess is … there was no effort to try to find things out,” said Pillar, speaking at the National Interest forum. “My guess would be, it’s not a matter of [Pakistani Army Chief] Gen. [Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani or the head of the ISI [Pakistani intelligence agency] knowing who was in that compound – but more the inquiries to find out just never having taken place.”

Kayani this week warned the US that Pakistan would not tolerate another raid like Sunday’s. But similar categorical statements have been made before about US drone attacks, some officials and experts have noted – and the attacks continue, if Friday’s strike is any indication.

Despite the bluster at both ends about the US-Pakistan relationship, a difficult but essential partnership will continue because, with Al Qaeda still in Pakistan and the US still next door in Afghanistan, there is no alternative, some say.

“What’s the alternative strategy in regards to Pakistan? We can’t overreact; we can’t back off the relationship if you don’t have a new strategy,” says Hoekstra, addressing in particular members of Congress who are calling for reduced foreign aid and cooperation. “We’ve got enough relations in the world to worry about right now, rather than adding to the list.”

Pakistan’s Man in Washington

 By Chris Frates for Politico

 As Pakistan’s top Washington lobbyist, it’s Mark Siegel’s job to convince U.S. officials not to take out their anger on the country despite the fact that Osama bin Laden spent at least five years living in relative comfort outside Islamabad.

It’s not an easy sell.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum wonder aloud how the world’s No. 1 terrorist could be living in plain sight unbeknownst to the Pakistanis. Siegel has to make the pitch that it’s in America’s national security interests to continue its relationship with Pakistan and to keep the billions of dollars in foreign aid flowing.

It’s a message that Siegel’s firm, Locke Lord, is getting paid good money to sell; the firm brings in almost $1 million a year representing Pakistan.

In addition to Siegel, the firm has about half a dozen lobbyists representing the country including Harriet Miers, an aide to former President George W. Bush and a one-time U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Siegel is uniquely positioned to make the country’s case to skeptics on the Hill. He’s been friends with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s family for almost three decades and has a direct line to Islamabad.

“The Pakistanis insist to me that they were not aware that Osama bin Laden was at that venue. The president made that very clear to me,” Siegel told POLITICO after speaking with Zardari this week. “I think if they had known, they would have been happy to nab him themselves.”

His connection to Zardari isn’t lost on those he lobbies, like House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, who met with Siegel on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t so much what Mark was saying to me on Tuesday, it was what I was saying to him knowing, or feeling confident that it was going to go directly back to the president,” said King (R-N.Y.). “There is a real question of credibility and trust and faith. You can’t have the No. 1 mass murderer of Americans living in plain view in Pakistan all these years while Pakistan is claiming to be our ally and getting $3 billion a year.”

Pakistan, King said, must investigate and credibly explain how bin Laden was able to go undected and demonstrate that its intelligence services and military have not been penetrated by al Qaeda.

“Mark’s basic job is almost to tread water, to keep everything afloat until something can be done,” King said. “I think he’s trying to prevent something from happening too quickly to have the relationship severed. He wants to make sure that he keeps it together and so you can have extensive talks between the two governments.”

But King’s not the only one critical of Pakistan these days.

The Obama administration – which didn’t give its ally a heads up that Americans would be swooping into their country to take out bin Laden for fear of leaks – has been describing the relationship between the two countries with the ambiguous “it’s complicated” tag usually reserved for Facebook profiles.

And Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin told ABC News Thursday that he thinks high-level Pakistani intelligence knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts and he has “no doubt” the country knows the location of other top-level targets.

“None of the people on the Hill are suggesting to me that anybody in the civilian government knew that Osama was there,” Siegel said, drawing a distinction between Zardari and the country’s military and intelligence branches.

Tony Podesta, a lobbyist who represents Egypt, knows something of representing a vilified client that is nevertheless a U.S. military ally in an unstable part of the world.

“You want to take it back to the long term strategic interests of the U.S. and to facts rather than supposition. It makes no long term strategic sense for any kind of reckless decisions to be made at this moment,” Podesta said. “That’s where he’ll leave it.”

Siegel has been friends with Zardari’s family for almost three decades, having met Zardari’s late wife, Benazir Bhutto, in 1984 when a mutual friend asked him to host a dinner party for her. The two would go on to write a book together and when Bhutto became prime minister, Siegel represented her government.

This week, Siegel said he has been reminding lawmakers that Pakistan has been a strong ally and that President Barack Obama and other administration officials have praised the country’s cooperation in fighting al Qaeda and terrorism. Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism – 30,000 civilians have been killed by terrorists in the last decade, he added.

Even before this week’s killing of bin Laden, Locke Lord has been active on the Hill. In February and March, firm lobbyists accompanied the Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani on meetings with House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, and Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee on state-foreign operations.

Last year, the firm successfully lobbied for $1.5 billion in economic and social aid over the next five years — a sum that has to be reauthorized each year. The firm is also lobbying to secure foreign aid and create duty-free “reconstruction opportunity zones” inside Pakistan’s tribal lands and Afghanistan.

America and India: The Almost-Special Relationship

By Jim Yardley for The New York Times

At a panel discussion last week on relations between India and the United States, Strobe Talbott, the former American diplomat, told an audience of Indian business leaders that he had learned a valuable lesson about India: Do not hyphenate it. As in Indo-Pak. (Or, in a close cousin of a hyphen, as in Chindia.) The audience smiled at his epiphany: India matters because it is India.

In a nutshell, President Obama is trying to deliver the same message during his three-day visit to India, the first stop on a broader Asian tour. Both countries are eager to build on their improved ties and set up a unique, special relationship, given that together they represent the world’s richest and largest democracies. Faced with a rising authoritarian China, and an economically wounded Europe, a weakened United States is casting about for global partners. India would seem a nice fit.

“This is the time to be ambitious about this relationship,” said Shivshankar Menon, India’s national security adviser, speaking on the panel with Mr. Talbott.

And yet eliminating the hyphen is not easy, especially given India’s fraught relations with its neighbors in what is perhaps the most politically complicated region on earth, one in which American lives and treasure are at stake in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And India’s evolving relationship with another neighbor, China, is also a prime concern for America. Indeed, the decision to focus Mr. Obama’s India trip on India was itself not easily achieved; some senior administration officials lobbied the president to put pressure on Indian leaders for a conciliatory gesture toward Pakistan, in hope that such a carrot might entice the Pakistanis to do more to help America against the Taliban.

These sorts of political equations have long tangled the U.S.-India relationship: The Americans, at different times, have pushed the Indians to cut a deal with Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, but the Indians have bristled at any interference. The Indians still want the Americans to sponsor India for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Not such an easy thing, the Americans reply, since America alone can’t do this and it creates issues between America and China. It has sometimes seemed like a relationship built around one country asking the other to do something it considers against its self-interest.

Moreover, the economic relationship between the two countries often has been a source of friction. High unemployment in America has renewed complaints that outsourcing to India hurts American workers. Indians complain that American protectionism is hurting Indian companies and that American export restrictions on technologies that can have both military and civil uses are outdated and unnecessary in a relationship between putative allies.

Mr. Obama’s trip is an attempt to reboot or refocus the relationship away from these disputes and de-emphasize the tangible goodies (for example, contracts) that politicians call “deliverables.” Instead, the two sides are discussing how they can partner on education, clean energy, agriculture, technological development and military cooperation. The thematic emphasis of the visit is on shared democratic values — a pointed dig at China — and what the two countries say are shared opportunities. American officials say that an expected $4 billion deal for India to buy military transport aircraft — yes, a goodie — will provide thousands of American jobs. Indian officials emphasize that trade between the two countries is basically balanced — unlike with China — and that the anger over outsourcing is misplaced, especially since some Indian companies are investing and creating jobs in the United States.

Some Indian commentators have groused that all the diplospeak about shared opportunities obscures the fact that the trip lacks a “big idea” to excite or elevate the relationship, even as big, unavoidable problems are seemingly being avoided. In 2000, former President Bill Clinton spent five days in India on a door-opening visit that was credited with righting what had been a stalled relationship. Then former President George W. Bush made the most dramatic gesture by pushing through an agreement to cooperate on civilian nuclear projects; the move effectively legitimized India as a nuclear power and lifted a 30-year moratorium on nuclear trade with India even though India had not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. By comparison, Mr. Obama seems not to be offering much.

“The jury is out,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, speaking of how India’s political establishment views Mr. Obama.

But Ronen Sen, who recently retired from India’s diplomatic corps after serving as ambassador to the United States, says the focus on a “big idea” is misplaced. Given the litany of difficult problems between the two countries, Mr. Sen said, Mr. Obama’s approach was a reasonable way to build trust and broaden a bilateral relationship that, while greatly improved, had not yet fully matured.

“It has not yet reached a critical mass where it can be self sustaining,” Mr. Sen said.

Indeed, even the landmark civil nuclear deal remains a subject of dispute as the two sides still squabble over fine details of how American suppliers could begin doing business in the lucrative Indian market. The Americans say that rules recently approved by India are inconsistent with accepted global practice, which exempts foreign suppliers from liability in cases of accidents, leaving it solely with local operators. A senior American official said “intense discussions” were underway to find a solution. If one is found, Mr. Obama may get a nice “deliverable” — an open door through which American firms, as originally expected, can sell nuclear equipment to India and provide jobs at home.

There is less talk of the chances of solving bigger problems, like differences between America and India in global negotiations on global warming climate change and trade. And the uncertainty over the most problematic hyphens — Afghanistan and Pakistan — looms over the visit. Even as Mr. Obama seeks a way to stabilize Afghanistan and get out, Indian officials dread the day America leaves. They worry about what will be left behind, since India cannot leave the neighborhood.

“Quite obviously, we have strategic stakes there,” said Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal, director of the Center for Land Warfare Studies, a military research institute. “We do not wish to have a government in Afghanistan or a government in Kabul that is inimical to Indian interests.”

He added: “We see the United States as a stabilizing influence in Asia.”

And so a political courtship will continue, problems and all. Governmental ties already lag far behind the people-to-people relationships. America remains the premier destination for Indian students studying abroad, and Indian immigrants in America have achieved disproportionate success in business, medicine and many other fields. It is this backchannel closeness that serves as a cattle prod nudging the governments to become closer, too.

K. Subrahmanyam, a leading Indian defense analyst, believes that India and the United States represent the inevitable and necessary partnership of the 21st century because China’s rise represents a threat to a global order based on democratic principles. He said that demographic trends, too, should bind the two countries together.

“If America needs a partner, Europe is aging, Japan is aging and China is going to age,” he said. “The only two major nations in the world who will not be aging, at least for the next 30 years, are the United States and India.”

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