'Rise of India Makes South Asia Matter More to US'

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Aug 10 (IANS) The rise of India and the difficulties of Pakistan has made South Asia matter more in the reckoning of the United States even as "Europe means a little less" and American power has seen a "relative decline", according to a former Bush era official.

Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state, said the Obama administration's foreign policy was "not a major departure" from that of the previous Bush administration, but probably just a "kinder, gentler" version.

"Although we're still and will remain the strongest power economically, militarily, etc. for well over 20 years into the future. There's been a relative decline," Armitage said in an interview to Charlie Rose on PBS Monday.

"Second of all, there's been a relative rise in China, which has brought forth a real competition in Asia for influence and for economic growth," he said.

There was "a real change in Russian relationships recently, where they're actually out courting old enemies, such as the Turks," Armitage said, suggesting a fundamental reordering of the traditional relationships.

"Europe means a little less than it did in the past. South Asia is a little bit more, given the rise of India and the difficulties of Pakistan. We're in a state of flux."

Armitage said President Barack Obama made "terrible mistakes" by following at first what he called a "schizophrenic" China policy.

"A little schizophrenia in the administration on China starting out, I think, trying to coddle favour with China: not moving arms sales to Taiwan, not seeing the Dalai Lama, things of that nature."

"I think these were terrible mistakes because our Chinese friends don't do gratitude," he said adding: "They do cold calculations of what they view is their national security, and we should as well."

But in general, Obama's Asia policy is not a major departure from that of Bush, Armitage said.

"I give it very high marks generally in Asia," he said noting both the secretary of state and the secretary of defence have spent a lot of quality time in Asia "trying to prove that we are going to a part of the Asian century".

"I think, however, in the main that this is a sort of kinder, gentler George W. Bush policy that we're seeing, without major departures from the previous administration," Armitage said.


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