India Abroad December 28, 2012 2012 THE YEAR THAT WAS
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to India's then foreign minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna speak during a news conference in New Delhi, May 8
SHANNON S TAPLETON/REU TERS
Riding the US-India bicycle
A year when Washington and Delhi pedaled on — to prevent falling over
Being election year — both Presidential and Congressional — in the United States, foreign policy in general, which included the any forward movement on the US-India strategic partnership, in 2012 was
very much relegated to the backburner.
In US-India relations, the envisaged strategic partnership remained very much on autopilot. Washington and
New Delhi went through the motions with some high-level
visits and ironing out wrinkles like Iran and economic
issues like Washington’s displeasure over New Delhi’s
reluctance to allow foreign direct investment in retail
(India acquiesced toward the end of the year).
Transformational manifestations like the US-India civilian nuclear deal remained in limbo and a possible major
irritant loomed on the horizon.
The year began with Washington still smarting over
India’s decision to not cave into US pressure and award the
multi-billion fighter aircraft deal to American defense
manufacturers. That hurt seemed to heal quickly; US companies, particularly Boeing, clinched contracts from India
that in totality exceeded $10 billion.
The single-most major bilateral event for the year, the
US-India Strategic Dialogue in mid-June, was in danger of
being contaminated by the growing irritant between
Washington and New Delhi over Iran. It was then that
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a surprise addition to
her itinerary, included a visit to India on her way back to
Washington, DC after co-chairing the US-China Strategic
Dialogue in May to lay the hand on Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh — so that she could assuage the con-
cerns of a skeptical Congress.
Singh and then Indian external affairs minister S M
Krishna, obviously cognizant Clinton would warn of sanctions against India if Delhi didn’t dramatically cut its trade
with Tehran, sent an SOS to Indian Ambassador to the US
Nirupama Rao to come to Delhi to be part of the discussions with Clinton.
Sources at the time had told India Abroad that besides
having enormous faith in Rao’s counsel, both the prime
minister and Krishna wanted to be extensively briefed by
Rao since she had been engaged in intensive discussions
with Obama administration officials and US lawmakers in
explaining India’s position and constraints in terms of a
radical diminution of Iranian oil imports. Even as she was
making clear that India was on the same page with the US
and the international community — against a nuclear Iran.