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Sunday, July 26, 2009

M J Akbar: Dulcet smiles in public, straight talk in private

To get an Obama-Hillary promotion from “dormant superpower” to "active superpower” India needs to sign the NPT, which will force Pakistan to sign as well. [There is very little talk in Washington, incidentally, of getting Israel to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.]

Mrs Hillary Clinton’s seamless public-posture-private-face skills, surely honed during the many domestic and national crises during Bill Clinton’s term as President, were put to admirable use during her visit to India. Her first visit to India, as Mrs President, was arguably her most important. It established the goodwill that her husband put to such excellent diplomatic use during his state visit. The ice that Bill Clinton broke became a tide during George Bush’s eight years. The jury is still out on whether the tide will recede, stagnate or become a flood. A politician without public relations has to be terribly lucky to be popular. Mrs Clinton has outdistanced luck. She crafted her language with enough nuance to fool an advertising agency. Focused on the Indian need for appearances she de-hyphenated her visit from Pakistan and bracketed it with ASEAN. Delhi squirms at any equivalence with Islamabad, as an India-Pakistan itinerary would imply; its self-image, backed up by international recognition of its growing economic muscle, places India on a much higher status platform than Pakistan.


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