A cold wind
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In private, [Bill Clinton] disclosed, Indian officials spoke of knowing roughly how many nuclear bombs the Pakistanis possessed, from which they calculated that a doomsday nuclear volley would kill 300 to 500 million Indians while annihilating all 120 million Pakistanis," Taylor Branch writes in his recently-released history of Clinton's presidency, The Clinton Tapes. "The Indians would thus claim 'victory' on the strength of several hundred million countrymen they figured would be left over.
Whether a consequence of misunderstanding or credulity, the seriousness with which the former president took such Indian statements is enormously revealing. Clinton may have been aghast at the apparent recklessness of India's leadership, but he found this tempered by — and also difficult to reconcile with — the immense enthusiasm he had for India and its people. For Clinton, and many members of the Baby Boomer generation in leadership positions in the United States, India held a captivating, exotic appeal. It was a land of intuitively peaceful, tolerant, and hardworking people held back by an incompetent and irresponsible leadership that was obsessed with advancing its parochial interests, building a nuclear arsenal and fighting Pakistan.
Barack Obama may be the first post-Boomer president, but he appears to retain a similar orientation to Clinton in matters pertaining to India, although for his generation India is more closely associated with Satyam than satyagraha. That the outward manifestations of his worldliness and his closeness to Indian-Americans have not yet translated into an overt appreciation of India at the political and strategic levels should therefore come as no surprise. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit in July was meant to draw attention to India's importance in American decision-making, but by involving just a single day of official meetings in Delhi, it only reinforced the belief that the Obama administration intended on bypassing the Indian political establishment in its engagement of India. Today, a year after Obama's election, Indian concerns that he may not implement the civilian nuclear agreement signed in 2008 appear misplaced, but they overshadow transformations in American policy of a more fundamental, philosophical nature.
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