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Two can play cynical geo-political games

I wrote here about how the Obama administration undid much of the good work performed by the Clinton and Bush administrations to create a solid partnership between the U.S. and India. Obama tilted away from India and towards Pakistan, which he hoped would become a reliable ally in the struggle against the Taliban.

As a symbolic part of this re-ordering, Hillary Clinton skipped India in her initial tour of Asia. In light of the administration’s overall stance on South Asia, it was impossible for India to miss the significance of Clinton’s gesture.

This week, however, Ms. Clinton made a stop in India. Her mission was to persuade the government to sign on to international sanctions against Iran. India relies on Iran for 12 percent of its oil, and so far has been unwilling to go along with the sanctions.

I hope that India cooperates in the international effort against Iran. But its reluctance to throw in with the U.S. is understandable at several levels. India has problems with its neighbors – Pakistan, China, and, presumably, Afghanistan once the Obama causes the U.S. to bail out. It is natural, therefore, that India would want decent relations with Iran, given India’s need for oil and since Iran is likely to acquire nuclear weapons whether India joins the boycott or not.

Having tilted towards India’s arch-adversary Pakistan in order to advance our interests in Afghanistan, the U.S. shouldn’t be surprised if India tilts away from us in order to advance what it takes to be its regional security and economic interests.

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