In Consulate General of India, New York (U.S.A.), on January 15, the U.S. authorities held a ceremony of transferring the sacred Indian relics stolen by malefactors several years ago from the temples. The criminals are estimated to have planned to sell ancient sculptures of Hindu gods in the U.S. market. One of the artifacts – the carved from sandstone, millennial statue of Vishnu and Lakshmi weighing 160 kg – was estimated by antiquarians at $1.5 million and ranked sixth in the list of most wanted works of art.
There are no prizes for guessing that this generous act by the United States purposed to improve the undermined bilateral relations with India.
The main reason for the deterioration of the dialogue between the two countries was a scandal around the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in December last year. The U.S. authorities have accused the Indian subject of fraud while procuring visa for her housemaid, arrested her in full view of children, and then subjected her to humiliating search and examination. The Indian authorities’ response was not slow to arrive. The case caused a massive public outcry in India and was sharply criticized by Delhi. Threats and accusations poured down on the United States as to violating international norms; high passions began to rage at the diplomatic level: several privileges for American diplomats were canceled; bilateral meetings delayed.
The incident with Khobragade was not the first. Since 2009, the media repeatedly published reports of unlawful detention of Indian citizens in the U.S.
In addition to abusive behavior towards India, Washington continues to actively cooperate with India’s competitor – Pakistan. America offers large financial help to Islamabad on various agreements, supplies supply equipment for military forces and police, trains Pakistani specialists on the basis of NATO’s infrastructure. On January 18 this year, U.S. President ordered to create within the State Department an Office for partnership with Afghanistan and Pakistan for the purpose of “further strengthening security and stability in the two countries and normalizing diplomatic presence” of the United States there.
Despite the formally friendly rhetoric on the part of the U.S. President Barack Obama, disrespect for the people of India coupled with support for India’s political competitor - Pakistan - has led to a deterioration of diplomatic ties and a loss of confidence in the relationship of the already ex-partners.
At the same time, after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. needs new springboards for the implementation of its policies in Asia. In this situation, the friendship with Delhi, to a large extent was the guarantee of saving Washington’s positions in the region, and that is why Obama during the last five years has tried to bring relations with India to a new level. But the incident with Khobragade and Delhi’s response show a wide gap in relations between India and the U.S.
Trying to smooth the scandal consequences and improve relationships, on January 14, the State Department dismissed the two employees of the U.S. Embassy in India, previously deported from Delhi. The reason for deportation of Wayne May and his wife Alicia Mueller May was their seditious comments in social networks about Indian culture. Wayne May called India a wild country and a zoo, and his wife wrote that sexual attacks in the country are caused by the Indian vegetarianism.
Another attempt to continue the interrupted bilateral partnership was a three-day round of negotiations between representatives of the intelligence services of the two countries - U.S. National Intelligence Council and India’s Joint Intelligence Council. In addition, last week there was a meeting between U.S. Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller and Indian Ambassador Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
However, as shown by the analysis of the events of this month, all U.S. efforts may be if not particularly futile then having little effect. Indian authorities are able to draw conclusions, and scandal with Khobragade only confirms that Delhi does not intend to put up with Washington’s provocative actions. The country’s leadership is well aware that can manage without a permanent U.S. presence in the region. This statement is also confirmed by the fact that the Indian authorities are in no haste to act with reciprocal initiatives to improve the partnership between the two countries, and gradually begin to expand cooperation with other states.