Washington, July 27: Air force General Richard Myers, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was chosen by President George W. Bush for Monday’s mission to persuade India to send troops because the White House has concluded that its best bet is to encourage the Indian Army to press the case for its deployment in northern Iraq.
According to sources here, Washington has concluded after the July 14 meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that the Indian Army strongly lobbied within New Delhi’s “establishment” in favour of being sent to Iraq. But the army had to retreat in the face of sobering assessments about its implications, both from the ministry of external affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Under those circumstances, there was agreement within the Bush administration that no purpose would be served by sending anyone from the state department or the National Security Council. If anyone from these two US agencies went to New Delhi, their primary interlocutors would be in the foreign ministry and the PMO, which are seen here as disinclined to honour Washington’s request.
Bush’s aides have been advised, erroneously as it may turn out, that the Indians would be bowled over by a visit by the US joint chiefs of staff’s chairman.
This advice to the White House stems from its experience with client states, most of them dictatorships, where the top men in office look for a cosy relationship with the Pentagon’s top brass.
Sources in Delhi said India was fully aware of this and that the itinerary for General Myers will reflect that awareness. At the time of writing, meetings for the visiting general have been fixed with his Indian counterpart Admiral Madhvendra Singh, army chief General .C. Vij and Brajesh Mishra, the national security adviser.
During an inter-ministerial meeting in Delhi to discuss the visit, the foreign ministry is understood to have insisted that a recent protocol should be strictly applied. This protocol limits the access of foreign visitors who invite themselves to Delhi to the levels of their counterparts, though exceptions have been made.
If General Myers does not meet the Prime Minister or the deputy Prime Minister, it will send a message to the US that India is not bowled over at the prospect of a visit by America’s senior-most man in uniform.
General Myers has been told to carry a lot of sweeteners, especially those that will impress the Indian Army. He will assure the Indian military that all pending requests for arms purchases would be processed expeditiously.
But it remains to be seen if any such promise will cut much ice in Delhi.