WASHINGTON (TIP): India’s new ambassador to the United States, Dr S Jaishankar, presented his credentials to President Obama at the White House on Monday in a formal ceremony at which the American President essayed an anodyne ”the U.S and India could accomplish a lot together,” at a time New Delhi has largely fallen off Washington’s radar, in part because of India’s pre-occupation with the general elections.
The credentialing process is a mostly ceremonial and familial occasion, but everyone watches for little signs that indicate the health of bilateral ties. From all accounts, Jaishankar, an old U.S hand, four generations of whose family has engaged Washington, got a warm welcome, with President Obama genially connecting with each member of the family and wishing them a good time in the US.
Six other foreign envoys, including Pakistan’s new ambassador to Washington Jalil Abbas Jilani, who has also served in New Delhi, also presented their credentials. The Indian ambassador was accompanied by his wife Kyoko, and the children — daughter Medha, an executive with Reliance Entertainment, son Dhruva, a Senior Fellow with the German Marshall Fund, and his wife Cassandra, a PhD scholar at Brandeis Univeristy, and Arjun, 14.
”As you know, I presented my credentials to President Obama and he seems to have checked out the credentials and found it OK,” the ambassador joked to guests from the state department, Congress, and media he had invited for lunch at his home following the ceremony. ”He allowed us to have a nice photograph and we had great conversation and he mentioned that his administration looks forward to working with me.” ”This is really what makes for our relationship, and as I am formally signing on today.
I thought the best thing to do would be to really call all the people I hope to work with for the rest of my tenure, and say, ‘I am counting on you to get my job done,” he added. On a more serious level, the ambassador’s energies in Washington, at a time when India is busy navelgazing due to elections at home, will be directed at averting punitive US trade sanctions that could welcome the new government in New Delhi.
A powerful trade lobby in Washington led primarily by big pharma, is striving to designate India as a ”priority foreign country” under the Special 301review aimed at punishing India for inadequate intellectual property rights. The two sides are also still struggling with resolving the nitty-gritty details of the Devyani Khobragade case, while larger geo-political issues have taken a backseat. India has been conspicuously out of the loop on the Ukraine crisis, with the leadership in New Delhi not among those President Obama has phoned for discussions — a list that includes all other major powers.