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Reducing trust deficit

US President Barack Obama’s efforts to take ownership of the US-India bilateral relationship has been stymied by the sentiment that certain US actions with regard to Pakistan have been detrimental to India’s interests.

world Updated: Jun 03, 2010 23:51 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

US President Barack Obama’s efforts to take ownership of the US-India bilateral relationship has been stymied by the sentiment that certain US actions with regard to Pakistan have been detrimental to India’s interests.

But Pakistan may not prove as much of an irritant as the inaugural US-India Strategic Dialogue takes off on Thursday since External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna stressed that India itself is trying to overcome the trust deficit between it and Pakistan.

Speaking to a select groups of journalists after a reception held in his honour at a residence of India’s Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar, Krishna underscored the new thinking that has recently been articulated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh . Krishna said that the relation with Pakistan should be thought of in terms of the “positive”.

He said, “Pakistan is there, you cannot wish it away. We are trying to build bridges with Pakistan also. I’m due to go to Islamabad on the 15th of July. We’re hoping that we will be able to eliminate the trust deficit that we feel that there is between the two countries.”

He said that high-level visits such as his to Pakistan, to be preceded by one by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, was a “very important vehicle to achieve” that objective.

American officials have, in recent days, taken a stronger line with Pakistan, especially in terms of the continued operation of India-focused groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed in that country.

But with India itself seeking to deal with Pakistan, this will not be a sticking point in the dialogue between the two countries.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns already stated that the US had not reverted to its earlier habit of hyphenating India and Pakistan. The US has also been supportive of the Prime Minister’s efforts to renew the dialogue process with Pakistan. Burns had also referred to that while speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday: “The President has welcomed Prime Minister Singh’s willingness to take political risks in order to lessen tensions with Pakistan and has promised that the United States will continue to support those efforts.”

“I think the Obama Administration, as President (George W) Bush before him is trying to establish good productive relationships with both countries but they’ll be different. The US-India relationship is much broader,” former State Department official, R Nicholas Burns, said.

And the Obama Administration, with the Strategic Dialogue, wants to underscore the multi-faceted, multi-sector relationship that the two countries have developed while that with Pakistan is based on necessity because of the US engagement in Afghanistan.