Takes a week to turn diplomacy around

Bill Clinton visits India on a weeklong tour of the subcontinent, signalling an end to old hostilities and a new partnership between India and the US on an economic, energy, security and international peace basis.
Bill Clinton on his visit to India; Source: Public Domain

Bill Clinton on his visit to India; Source: Public Domain

This US President seemed to be getting a bit too comfortable with his order of work - this was Bill Clinton, the usually internal-politics oriented President of India, who wished to visit India for a full week back in 2000.

India and the United States till that point had a very chilling foreign relationship - the US saw India as a regional threat since it postured against its ally, Pakistan, and had conducted nuclear tests in 1998, which had invited US sanctions. India, on the other hand, hated US arms and ammunition support to Pakistan, despite continued  evidence that a portion of this amount might be going to train and equip Pakistani backed militias creating insurgency on India’s northern borders.

Both nations were thus locked in a stalemate - US companies sought Indian markets as very lucrative, as they were emerging on a global scale, and Indian IT companies looked for US consultancy customers.

Further, both nations were eager to solve issues of nuclear energy, technology sharing, and in an increasingly isolated world, the rise of China.

Clinton thus decided to make a week long trip to properly address all these topics as and when they came to his mind, as he toured from March 19 to 25. He stopped only for some hours in Pakistan and Bangladesh, signalling a changing US policy at the international level.

Sanctions had been lifted sometime before the visit, and talks of 21st century cooperation, democracy, freedom and peace rang high. Growing economic calculations and US investments into the country looming, both the US and Indian political leadership could ill afford to miss such an opportunity on their hands. Privatisation, a tilt towards better relations with the US, and good, balanced treatment in the Kargil war signalled for them to start developing better ties.


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