December 15, 2010

TAMING BULL:

Holbrooke and India: When irresistible force met immovable object (Chidanand Rajghatta, 12/15/10, TNN)

[I]n the solid, stolid Indian government, Holbrooke, the irresistible force, met the immovable object. "New Delhi must have caused the ruptured aorta," was the feeble joke in the Indian analysts' community, as news of the death of this much-admired and often-feared man trickled through the diplomatic world. [...]

The scuttlebutt in Washington was that Holbrooke wanted India, including the vexing Kashmir issue, in his brief. The "Raging Bull" aka Bulldozer was famously credited with hammering together the Dayton peace accord (which his admirers felt should have earned him the Nobel Peace Prize). He believed that resolving the Afghan situation was linked to ending the tensions Pakistan had with India, and at the end of that rainbow (according to his fan club), lay a Nobel Prize.

But New Delhi, questioning the line of argument linking Af-Pak to Kashmir, balked. The Obama administration was persuaded to keep Holbrooke's mandate restricted to Af-Pak, with the assurance that India would be happy to informally discuss its views on the region with him. For several months thereafter, Holbrooke tried to visit New Delhi, but there was always "scheduling problems" and the two sides struggled to find "mutually acceptable dates" – diplospeak for "you are not welcome just now."

In the meantime, private efforts were made to bring Holbrooke up to speed on regional history and its nuances. A fair-minded man of formidable intellect and voracious reading habits, he devoured books and films on the region – and the job was pretty much done.

When New Delhi finally consented to receive him in January this year, it was not the lion it expected, but a lamb. As Ambassador Timothy Roemer reported in his cable to Washington DC (disclosed by Wikileaks), Holbrooke, in his meeting with India's Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, "noted that he comes with a clear vision of the centrality of India to the strategic landscape in the region... He reiterated that his portfolio explicitly excludes India...Holbrooke assured Rao that he is in favor of Indian assistance programs in Afghanistan and is not influenced by what he hears in Islamabad."


Diplomacy wasn't an arena for him to vindicate American interests, just his own.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 15, 2010 6:16 AM
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