Obama or Romney, India to stay on strong ground

  • Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Nov 04, 2012 18:18 IST

US President Barack Obama (R) greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) following the first presidential debate at Magness Arena at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (AFP Photo)

India has little to worry about as to who will manage United States foreign policy in the next administration. Both campaigns, especially the Republicans, have expressed a strong commitment to India.

With Hillary Clinton set to resign as secretary of state position in January, a re-elected President Barack Obama has three known candidates for the position. One is his present national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, author of the “Pivot to Asia” and a proponent of close defence ties with India.

Another is his United Nations ambassador, Susan Rice. A supporter of cross-border intervention after her experience with the 1994 Rwandan genocide, she is thus more sceptical of a sovereign-conscious India’s ability to be a global player. Finally, there is perennial hopeful Senator John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is considered India-friendly but developed an exaggerated reputation in New Delhi as soft on Pakistan and too pushy on liberal priorities like global warming.

Richard Lugar, who will be stepping down as Indiana’s senator, is a dark horse candidate. Though Republican, Lugar mentored the young Obama when the latter was first elected to the senate.

Lugar was a strong congressional supporter of the Indo-US nuclear deal. But he is in his eighties.

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is less clear. The Republican candidate put together a sprawling foreign policy team, many of whom had contradictory positions. The team includes strong supporters of an Indian relationship, including think tank analyst Ashley Tellis.

But who will be his secretary of state is less clear because, say people who have worked with him, “foreign policy doesn’t excite Romney too much.” If a President Romney decides to keep his rightwing happy, he could choose nuclear hawk John Bolton for the secretaryship and his advisor, Dan Senor, as national security advisor. If so, expect fireworks or worse on Iran, a country whose nuclear programme both are determined to stop.

The more mainstream Republican candidates to run Foggy Bottom are ex-World Bank head Robert Zoellick, Council for Foreign Relations head Richard Haass, and even George W Bush’s former national security advisor Stephen Hadley. Dark horse candidates include analyst Mitchell Reiss and ex-George W Bush aide Richard Williamson.

Both Obama and Romney may consider professional diplomats, says the Daily Beast. William Burns, the present number two at State, and Nick Burns, number three under Condoleeza Rice, would top such a list.


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