Home / Politics / Policy /  Hillary Clinton as next US president will be good news for India

New Delhi: Former US first lady and ex-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who announced her second bid for the US presidency on Sunday, is no stranger to India.

In fact, popular lore has it that she was a friend of India in the White House during the years that her husband Bill Clinton was president (1992-2000).

One of the earliest visits of Hillary Clinton to India was as first lady in March 1995. India was till then seen as a blip on the US radar, given that the two countries had little in common by way of strategic interests. However, India was beginning to pique US interest because it had announced a series of economic reforms in 1991 and was beginning to open up its economy to foreign investments.

The visit to India was part of a tour of South Asia. The India visit, according to news reports, was spurred in part by an invitation issued to her in 1994 by the Albania-born nun Mother Teresa to visit her homes for children in India during the latter’s visit to Washington.

By the end of the South Asia visit that included stops in Delhi—where she met then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi—and Ahmedabad, Hillary Clinton was said to be impressed by the colour and vibrancy of India. She is said to have played a role in ensuring Bill Clinton did focus on India. Hillary Clinton returned to India in 1997 with daughter Chelsea for the funeral of Mother Teresa.

More recently, as secretary of state in the Barack Obama administration (2009-13), Indian diplomats say she stood by India on many occasions, especially on the subject of terrorism.

During Hillary Clinton’s tenure, the US and India worked to ensure closer cooperation in high technology areas, particularly defence and space. It was during her term in office that India and the US launched a ministerial-level strategic dialogue in July 2009, focusing on five interests—strategic cooperation; energy and climate change; education and development; economy, trade and agriculture; science and technology; and health and innovation. The first dialogue was held in Washington in June 2010.

At a time when Iran was economically isolated for its suspect nuclear programme and India was under pressure to cut down its oil imports from the country, Hillary Clinton is said to have managed to tamp down on alarm in Washington about India’s ties with Iran.

On Pakistan and terrorism emanating from that country, Hillary Clinton is said to have consistently prodded Pakistan on terrorist havens and repeatedly stuck to delivering tough messages and against giving Pakistan any blank checks.

In May 2012, Pakistan went into a sulk after Hillary Clinton stood next to former external affairs minister S.M. Krishna and urged Pakistan to end homegrown terrorism. Pakistan was also furious at her charge that Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was in Pakistan. The symbolism associated with Hillary Clinton’s stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, the site of the 2008 November terrorist attack, was also not lost either in India or Pakistan.

That Pakistan was not sold US weaponry despite constant demands during her watch was also a source of comfort to India.

There was a degree of caution and consternation in India when news of John Kerry being named her successor broke, with many Indian newspapers pointing out that Kerry was one of Pakistan’s powerful supporters. That Kerry was the co-author of the so-called Kerry-Lugar-Berman law in 2009 that authorized a five-year $7.5 billion payout to Pakistan subject to a slew of conditions was all too well recalled in India.

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