Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Opens Diplomatic Door to India

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Opens Diplomatic Door to India

Article excerpt

India is a country on the fence.

On one hand, it could become a US partner and bring stability to South Asia. Or, as President Clinton has warned, it could fall into a nuclear confrontation with its neighbor to the west, Pakistan.

When Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee begins meetings in Washington Thursday, US officials will try to make sure the former scenario prevails. Mr. Vajpayee, on a reciprocal visit after Clinton's recent trip to India, will also address Congress and meet with presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush.

For Indians, the trip carries great weight - because there is no better measure of a country's standing in the world than how it is received in Washington.

"The primary goal is to consolidate the gains made during the Clinton visit in March," says Kanti Prasad Bajpai, an international- relations expert from New Delhi who is in Washington on a fellowship at the Brookings Institution.

There were no major policy breakthroughs in March, but India benefited from the symbolism of the first visit by a US president in 22 years.

Likewise, meetings this week are expected to focus on feel-good issues like investment, technology and the rapidly growing Indian- American community.

BUT beneath the surface are more serious concerns that will surely be a subtext of any high-level diplomacy. Most immediately, Indian officials want the US to remove economic and trade sanctions that were put in place after New Delhi tested nuclear weapons in 1998. A State Department official says the sanctions are likely to remain in place, however, until India signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. While the US has signed the treaty, the Senate did not ratify it, making it hard for Washington to press that point.

In the long term, India, with a population just over 1 billion and a rapidly expanding economy, is looking to be recognized as a global power. One of its desires is a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. …

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