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|March 18, 2000|
Clinton's visit may not change things, says panel
J M Shenoy
India's flamboyant defense minister Krishna Menon wronged everyone on the wrong side; Jawaharlal Nehru did not get along well with John F Kennedy; Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan disliked Indira Gandhi, and now, don't expect Bill Clinton to have a warm relationship with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, warned Professor Phil Oldenburg of the Columbia Southern Asian Institute.
He was among seven panelists -- including a Pakistani editor and a human rights activist -- who met at the Maharaja Restaurant in New York at an event organized by the South Asian Journalists Association.
He said American leaders never appreciated India's aspiration to be recognized as a world leader. Many American presidents thought Indian leaders were behaving far more arrogantly than their status necessitated.
Indian diplomats had also contributed to the friction. Many of them had been educated at British institutions and thought of Americans as uncouth, compared to their British cousins.
There was no question of General Musharraf liking Clinton because the American president will be lecturing him on human rights, Nawaz Sharif and terrorism, Professor Oldenburg said.
Clinton's efforts to sell high-tech to the countries in the subcontinent could have mixed reactions, he added, particularly in Bangladesh which has suffered considerably because of water pollution in the wells dug up by American firms.
Foreign leaders bearing high technology is not always embraced with warmth and open arms, he said.
Clinton will not raise the Kashmir issue during the visit, many panelists felt. He has said he will not want to be the peace-maker unless both countries ask him to do so.
Besides, he hardly understands the complex situation, said Krishnan Anantharaman, assistant foreign editor at The Wall Street Journal. But having neglected India and the neighboring region for most part of his presidency, he would certainly want to have some South Asian legacy. He would be more than happy if he has succeeded in nudging India and Pakistan having a round of talk, Anantharaman said.
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