India's state visit

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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. The White House is preparing for the first state visit of the Obama presidency. India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will receive an elaborate welcome when he arrives tomorrow. His visit comes at a delicate time in relations between the world's two largest democracies. And that's because the US has lavished attention an aid on India's neighbor and historical enemy Pakistan. Sumit Ganguly is a professor of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington. Can you tell us what is at the top of the agenda for Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh when they meet this week?

SUMIT GANGULY: Well they may have different items on the agenda as far as what they consider to be their principle priorities. For Obama it will be to try and convince Prime Minister Singh to accept certain kinds of limitations on emissions, carbon emissions from India. But for Manmohan Singh there may be other items on the agenda for example pushing through the US-India civilian nuclear deal that was arrived at last year under the Bush Administration. But the final implementation of it still is in [INDISCERNIBLE]. So it's entirely possible that they may have different top priorities.

WERMAN: Where does Afghanistan figure in the agenda? I mean how is India involved in the US involvement in Afghanistan?

GANGULY: India's involvement in Afghanistan is quite substantial. It is the fifth largest aid donor to Afghanistan, to the tune of $1.2 billion. It has primarily been involved in the construction of schools, rural roads, hospitals, and the like. But India depends upon sort of the kindness of the United States and the international security assistance force to protect its workers in India. Indian workers building a road have been attacked and killed. The Indian embassy has been attacked twice with substantial casualties. So it is of vital importance to India to ensure that there is a stable and non-Taliban government in Afghanistan and consequently, at least on this issue, US and Indian views neatly dovetail.

WERMAN: I mean a lot of people, a lot of observers on the region, say that one of the critical issues for the stability in Afghanistan and bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan together is the stability of Kashmir and focusing on this Muslim territory controlled mostly by India should somehow lead us to perhaps stability in Afghanistan. Can you connect the dots for us why Kashmir is so important and why people are talking about it?

GANGULY: It's actually one of the worst red herrings imaginable. I firmly decent on this popular notion that somehow or other Kashmir is connected to Afghanistan. Kashmir is an issue that the Pakistani military establishment routinely trots out as a justification for its failure or its inability or more importantly its unwillingness to go after the Taliban in a rigorous fashion.

WERMAN: Don't you think though � . I mean you don't agree with the idea of using Kashmir somehow in all of this but shouldn't diplomacy be a little more clever in using Kashmir as a kind of chest piece in getting all parties what they want? I mean should for example the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan maybe expand his brief to include India as well?

GANGULY: His brief should include India in that India should have a place at the table in terms of the settlement of Afghanistan, n terms of bringing about a [INDISCERNIBLE] of stability in Afghanistan. But the moment you put Kashmir in the mix it becomes completely toxic and this is the quickest way to bring the entire proceedings to a screeching halt. No government in India, regardless of its political orientation, will tolerate an American role in Kashmir. The Indians have long memories which hark back to the Cold War where the United States blatantly and shamelessly tilted towards all manner of scrofulous regimes in Pakistan and supported the Pakistani claim on Kashmir which in my judgment is rather tenuous. But that aside, in terms of diplomacy by attempting to inveigle the Kashmir issue into the Afghanistan-Pakistan mix is about the biggest non-starter that I can possibly imagine.

WERMAN: Sumit Ganguly, professor of political science at Indian University in Bloomington. Thank you very much for your time indeed.

GANGULY: Thank you.