An unnatural quiet appears to have descended on India-US relations in the wake of WikiLeaks.
Not too long ago, a visit by a US Congressional delegation would have generated news. Not any more. For neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor foreign minister S M Krishna are meeting a five-member high level Congressional delegation headed by Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
Sources affirmed that in the wake of diplomatic conversations becoming public as a result of WikiLeaks, the UPA government, already pilloried for being too close to the US, is trying to be a lot more circumspect about the US. On the US side, even the US embassy has downplayed the visit. The delegation will meet national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and commerne minister Anand Sharma during their multi-city tour.
Significantly, McConnell’s Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid, is in China on a similar mission accompanied by nine senators. China is unconcerned because WikiLeaks may have raged in many parts of the world but not in China. Therefore, Reid will have his most important meeting with Xi Jinping, who is slated to succeed Hu Jintao next year.
In previous years, though, Congressional delegations have been received at the highest level in the Indian system. The hesitation this time is unusual, sources attributing it to the battering Indian politicians took after WikiLeaks.
Officials, however, rushed to point out that a rash of high-level meetings between the US and India are on the cards. Bill Burns, who will now become deputy secretary in the US state department, is likely to come for meetings before his confirmation hearings start. The high-tech working group will be meeting here, which acquires importance after India was taken off some categories in the US entitities list. Richard Holbrooke’s successor, Marc Grossman, will also be here at the end of April to talk Afghanistan-Pakistan with India.
The India-US strategic dialogue is slated for July which will see US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visiting here.
A rash of WikiLeaks documents leaked from the US embassy here showed the closeness between US and Indian systems, which has come under a lot of criticism from Left-leaning commentaries. Even the opposition BJP has felt stung by some of the leaks. From Pakistan to Sri Lanka, conversations between US diplomats and Indian officials and politicians have been made public coloured by US officials’ perceptions of Indians. Surprisingly, despite their public reservations about the US, across the political spectrum, Indian politicians were seen to be more than open with US diplomats. TOI