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Engaging India

Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 268
  • Book Info
    Engaging India
    Book Description:

    On May 11, 1998, three nuclear devices detonated under the Thar Desert in India shook the surrounding villages -and the rest of the world. The immediate effect was to plunge U.S.-India relations, already vexed by decades of tension and estrangement, into a new crisis. The situation deteriorated further when Pakistan responded in kind two weeks later, testing a nuclear weapon for the first time. Engaging India is the firsthand story of the diplomacy conducted between the United States and the two South Asian neighbors after the nuclear tests. In this book, the American point man for the dialogue takes us behind the scenes of one of the most suspenseful and consequential diplomatic dramas of our time, reconstructing what happened -and why -with narrative verve, rich human detail, and penetrating analysis. From June 1998 to September 2000, in what was the most extensive dialogue ever between the United States and India, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Indian Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh met fourteen times in seven countries on three continents. They discussed both the immediate items on the security and nonproliferation agenda, as well as their wider visions for the U.S.-India relationship and the potential for economic and strategic cooperation between the two countries. As the relationship improved over the course of the talks, the United States was to able play a role in averting the possibility of nuclear war over the contested territory of Kashmir in the summer of 1999 -the specifics of which are included for the first time in this book, told in way only a protagonist can. The Talbott-Singh diplomacy laid the groundwork for the transformational visit of President Bill Clinton to India in March 2000 and helped end fifty years of estrangement between the world's two largest democracies. As pursuit of Islamic militants continues across South Asia, the increased cooperation established by Talbott and Singh will be an invaluable asset for current and future leaders of both countries. This book provides, for the first time, an insider's perspective on the ground-breaking efforts to build a cordial relationship between the United States and India. The general reader will find it accessible, and more important, an indispensable tool for understanding America's current role in South Asia, and the prospects for improved relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9759-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-22)

    When I arrived for work that damp, overcast morning of Monday, May 11, 1998, I was expecting a relatively normal week, at least by State Department standards. There was plenty to do at the office and plenty to worry about in the world, but nothing that quite qualified as a crisis.

    Shortly after 8:00 a.m., I chaired the daily meeting of the department’s senior staff. As deputy secretary, I was supposed to keep tabs on what was going on in the building and around the globe. Assembled at a mahogany table in the windowless conference room across from my office...

    (pp. 23-51)

    Bill Clinton has had a fascination with India since I first knew him when we were students together at Oxford in the late 1960s. He has always been a voracious reader of history and biography—especially, in those years and in that setting, books about Britain in the heyday of its empire. I remember him toting around Robert Blake’s biography of Disraeli for several weeks in the fall of 1969 and talking about it in pubs and in the kitchen of the house we shared. That same year he read E. M. Forster’sPassage to Indiafor the first time....

    (pp. 52-72)

    “We’re going to come down on those guys like a ton of bricks,” said President Clinton as he opened a meeting in the Oval Office. Twentyfour hours had passed since the news reached Washington, but his anger at India’s leaders was unabated. In his view—and that of all his advisers—the BJP had increased the danger of nuclear war on the subcontinent, dealt a body blow to the global nonproliferation regime, and dimmed if not extinguished his hopes for improving U.S.-Indian relations.

    It was not uncommon for Clinton to throw a volcanic fit when something went badly wrong in...

    (pp. 73-88)

    News of the muffled explosion in the mountains of Baluchistan reached New Delhi just as the lower house of the parliament was debating the implications of India’s own test in the desert of Rajasthan a fortnight earlier. Many in the hall were stunned, which was itself surprising, given the virtual certainty that Pakistan would not let the Indian test go unanswered. Some members of the opposition shook their fists and shouted reproaches at the government for having set off a new spiral in the arms race and put the safety of the nation in jeopardy.

    S. Jaipal Reddy, a leader...

    (pp. 89-111)

    On June 18, the week after my first meeting with Jaswant, I made a relatively rare appearance in the State Department briefing room to announce the administration’s “rollout” of the sanctions that went into effect that day. This battery of punitive measures was the big stick we were carrying while we spoke softly in the dialogue, and I felt I had to brandish that stick myself. I didn’t want to look like the administration’s good cop, searching for compromises in back rooms while the U.S. government was publicly beating up on India and Pakistan.

    Sanctions have had, at best, a...

    (pp. 112-131)

    Popular as Pokhran II was with the Indian people, the government knew that it was in trouble with much of the rest of the world. One of the first chances to gauge whether the furor was dying down was the annual meeting of a group called the ASEAN Regional Forum (known by the infelicitous acronym ARF), to be held in Manila on July 26–27. Once the foreign ministers of ASEAN’s own member states had met among themselves, they invited counterparts from around the Pacific rim to join them for another two days of discussion on regional security, trade, drug...

    (pp. 132-153)

    Jaswant Singh and I had to meet again, and relatively soon, if only to avoid the appearance that we were giving up on the dialogue and that U.S.-Indian relations were slipping back into their old rut. We arranged for our paths to cross the third week in November in Rome, where I had business to do with the Italian government. Jaswant could conveniently stop in Rome en route to London to see his publisher, Macmillan Press, who would be bringing out his latest book,Defending India, early the next year.¹ Accompanied by a few of our usual colleagues, we held...

    (pp. 154-169)

    American diplomacy in South Asia went into a hiatus for the first six months of 1999 while the BJP fought to stay in power and the United States went to war in the Balkans. For more than a year, the regime of Slobodan Milošević had brutalized the ethnic Albanian Muslim majority in Kosovo, a province of southern Serbia. From mid-January, when Serb forces carried out a massacre in the village of Račak, through early June, the foreign policy apparatus of the American government was busy mobilizing an international coalition against Serbia, shepherding the necessary decisions through the NATO political and...

    (pp. 170-189)

    Kargil gave President Clinton a jarring look at the danger in South Asia, and Blair House gave him a taste of the new opportunity for American diplomacy in the region. At least half a dozen times in the summer and fall of 1999, when I was in the Oval Office or traveling with the president on other business, he would pull me aside and ask how things were going and instruct me to keep in mind his endgame as I played out my own. In late July he held me back after a meeting on Russia in the Cabinet Room,...

    (pp. 190-205)

    In January 2000, when I returned to London for another round of talks with Jaswant, we were largely marking time. More important than the rather sterile discussions in India House was the trip that Rick Inderfurth made when he peeled off and flew to Islamabad, leading the first high-level American government delegation to Pakistan since the coup. Over the previous year and a half, all such teams had included a senior nonproliferation specialist, usually Bob Einhorn or someone from his shop. This time, Rick took with him instead Michael Sheehan, a State Department official responsible for counterterrorism, which had replaced...

    (pp. 206-232)

    Jaswant and I next saw each other, in July 2000, in Bangkok, where we attended that year’s session of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Fortunately, I was spared having to be part of a skit at the closing dinner, since Secretary Albright was there and did another star turn with a song-and-dance routine on the theme of “Thanks for the Memories.” Wearing a bowler and a tuxedo jacket, she sang, “I’m so glad Jaswant is here, If he’s looking to please me . . . he’ll sign CTBT.”

    Jaswant was in no joking mood on that subject. “I’ve heard your song,”...

    (pp. 233-236)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 237-256)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 257-268)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-270)