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No call from Obama seen as slight to India

US President-elect seems to have skipped over India's PM in his calls to 16 world leaders. -The Statesman, ANN

Tue, Nov 11, 2008
The Statesman, ANN

NEW DELHI - THE Indian media has detected a snub at New Delhi, as United States President-elect Barack Obama telephones world leaders.

On Sunday, he spoke to Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose country is India's big regional rival. Earlier, he had called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, with whom India has testy relations.

Yet, though Mr Obama has returned calls to 16 world leaders, he has yet to get around to India, despite the nuclear deal just struck with Washington.

India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) maintains that they are unaffected by Mr Obama's call pattern, saying that he will call the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, in due course.

Publicly, officials insist too much is being read into these telephone calls and that this is not an indication of the strength of the Indo-US relationship, which remains strong. Earlier, however - after Mr Obama called Mr Zardari last Saturday - the Indian government had maintained he was returning calls only to nations with some military alliance with the United States.

At that time, MEA officials pointed out in particular that both China and India had not received calls since both did not share a military alliance with the US. With Mr Obama's call to President Hu, this explanation no longer holds.

And the government seems to have no new answer for this latest embarrassment. The best explanation officials have found is that the Indian Premier had been on his way to the Gulf on an official visit.

A senior official has been quoted as saying wryly: "Of course, we are not in the same league as South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and we are happy not to be."

As President-elect of the US, Mr Obama's first actions are significant since they indicate areas that will be the focus of his administration.

The calls to his allies are understandable but the absence of a call to India is quite a snub, especially since India is regarded today as the power that can balance the rise of China in Asia.

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