High Expectations, But Some Anxiety, in India About New US President

The incoming Obama White House is going to be watched closely from the world's largest democracy. India has enjoyed a warming relationship with the United States under the past two presidential administrations following decades when American policy in the region clearly tilted in favor of Pakistan - India's primary rival.

While there is anxiety about some of the new president's campaign pledges - such as halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reducing the outsourcing of American jobs, in general Indians seem hopeful the relationship with the United States will improve as it did for the past 16 years under the Clinton and Bush administrations.  

Former Indian foreign secretary and ambassador to the United States, Lalit Mansingh, tells VOA that Mr. Obama's pledge of multi-lateralism is especially encouraging.

"We do hope that he will reach out to countries and we hope that he will include India in finding solutions to global problems," he said.

Political analysts say they expect the Obama White House to back away from campaign rhetoric that tied solving regional terrorism - stemming from elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan - to the Kashmir issue. There is also a sense of relief that then-Senator Obama was a strong supporter of the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement, a major accomplishment for both President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

If the Senate approves the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, something the Obama White House is expected to strongly push, former Ambassador Mansingh says Beijing and New Delhi are likely to face U.S. pressure to act in kind.

"People are a bit anxious about what he's going to do, how much he is going to put on India to sign the CTBT," he said. "Mind you this is not something new. We had faced pressure from the Clinton administration to sign the CTBT."

Another former foreign secretary, Shyam Saran, now a special envoy for the Prime Minister, tells VOA News there is relief the new president has chosen a familiar face, Hillary Clinton, as his secretary of state.

"Having someone in that influential position who has a certain knowledge, and I would say even a certain sympathy for India, this can only be a plus point," he said.

In the Senate, Hillary Clinton served as co-chair of the India caucus and preceded her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, in visiting India.

The president-elect recently pledged to Prime Minister Singh to work together on major global issues, giving rise to expectations the relationship between India and the United States will reach unprecedented heights in the years ahead.

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