Prime Minister Mamohan Singh, on state visit to the US, the first by any global leader under the Obama administration, expressed confidence that India-US relationship will not suffer in any way under President Barack Obama. Besides, he wonders “who to deal with in Pakistan” with power virtually resting with Army there.
In an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”, Singh said: “I have no apprehension that our relations with the United States would in any way suffer because of the change of administration.”
He was responding to a query whether he had any apprehension about the Obama administration not being as favourably disposed to India as President George W Bush with whom he “famously had a very good relationship”.
Singh is scheduled to meet Obama in their first bilateral summit on Tuesday. The two leaders have, however, met thrice before on the sidelines of G-20 meetings in London and Pittsburgh and the G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy.
In response to another query if the relationship between Indian society and American society was actually now stronger that that between the two governments, the Prime Minister said, “Our relations at the people-to-people level are of great significance.”
“The fact that there is a large community in the United States, people of Indian origin, the way they have flourished, the way they have contributed to the growth of the American economy, I think has changed the image of India.”
Noting that “there is hardly a middle class family in India who doesn’t have a son, a son-in-law, a brother or a sister, or a sister-in-law in the United States,” the prime minister said: “I think that’s a great incentive for our two countries to look to further development of our relationships.”
About talks with Pakistan, Singh said that with power virtually staying with the Army despite a democratic regime, he wonders “who to deal with” or negotiate with in Islamabad.
“I think the most important force in Pakistan is the army,” Singh said when he was asked who he thought was running Pakistan right now.
“And there is democracy. We would like democracy to succeed and flourish in Pakistan. But we have to recognize that the power today rests virtually with the army.”
Asked if he felt he had a partner in Pakistan right now with whom he can negotiate, Manmohan Singh said: “Well, I don’t know whether we have a partner right now.”
The Prime Minister said when General Pervez Musharraf was the president of Pakistan, “I used to ask him. And he said, ‘Well, I am the army. I represent the armed forces. I represent the people. Now I don’t know who to deal with.”
When he was asked if he, looking at the situation in Pakistan, was bothered about the fall down of the state and the nuke weapons moving into the hands of either some radical element within the army or terrorists, the Prime Minister said: “Well, we worry about all these contingencies.”
“But we have been assured by the Americans that they are satisfied that’s not going to happen.”
Responding to a question about prospects for productive negotiations on Kashmir with Pakistan as he was reportedly close to some kind of a deal with Musharraf, he reiterated that while there can be no redrawing of borders, greater people-to-people contacts would make borders irrelevant.
“Well, I have publicly stated that there can be no redrawing of borders,” he said, “But our two countries can work together to ensure that these are borders of peace, that people-to-people contacts grow in this manner in which people do not, I think, worry whether they are located on this side of the border or that side.
“If trade is free-trade, people-to-people contacts and our both countries competing with each other to give a life of – to enable the people on both sides to lead a life of dignity and self-respect – those are issues which we can discuss. We can reach agreement.”