US not sure of new Indian government post-election

Washington, Jan 30: The US intelligence community believes that any post-election Indian government will probably have a positive view of the US, but it’s “not assured” that future legislation or policy changes would be consistent with American interests.

“In this election year in particular, coalition politics and institutional challenges will remain the primary drivers of India’s economic and foreign policy decision making,” Director of US National Intelligence, James Clapper, told a Congressional panel Wednesday.

“Any future government installed after the 2014 election will probably have a positive view of the United States, but future legislation or policy changes that are consistent with US interests is not assured,” he said giving the collective “worldwide threat assessment” of 16 US intelligence agencies.

“Coalition politics will almost certainly dominate Indian governance,” Clapper said noting “since the 1984 national elections, no party has won a clear majority in the lower house of Parliament.”

“We judge that this trend will continue with the 2014 election, and the proliferation of political parties will further complicate political consensus building,” he said.

In 2014, India will probably attain a 5 percent average annual growth rate, significantly less than the 8 percent growth that it achieved from 2005 to 2012 and that is needed to achieve its policy goals, Clapper said.

Turning to foreign relations, the intelligence chief expressed the view that “India shares US objectives for a stable and democratic Pakistan that can encourage trade and economic integration between South and Central Asia.”

“We judge that India and Pakistan will seek modest progress in minimally controversial areas, such as trade, while probably deferring serious discussion on territorial disagreements and terrorism,” he said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also “seeks rapprochement with New Delhi in part in anticipation of increased trade, which would be beneficial to Pakistan’s economic growth,” Clapper said.

“Sharif will probably move cautiously to improve relations, however, and India also will probably not take any bold steps, particularly not before the Indian elections,” he said.

In the US intelligence community’s assessment, “India will continue to cooperate with the US on the future of Afghanistan following the drawdown of international forces.”

“India also shares concerns about a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, seeing it as a long-term security threat and source of regional instability,” he said.

“India and China have attempted to reduce long-standing border tensions through confidence-building measures,” Clapper noted, but in his view “mutual suspicions will likely persist.”

The confidence-building measures listed included holding the first bilateral military exercise in five years in November 2013 and signing a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China in October 2013.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

IANS