October 2002 News

Terror in Kashmir is 100% imported: US

29 October 2002
The Indian Express

New Delhi: The United States today unequivocally said that the problem in Kashmir was one of ‘‘cross-border terrorism’’ which was ‘‘entirely externally driven,’’ and that India’s actions after the December 13 attack on Parliament were justifiable. ‘‘I have to say that India was justified in reacting to the terrorist attacks, to defend itself,’’ Ambassador Robert D Blackwill said today at a FICCI meet in response to a question from the audience. As to whether the elections in Kashmir, and the election of a new government would make a difference to the situation there, Blackwill said: ‘‘We’ll have to see’’ how the situation on the ground develops. Having said this, Blackwill then proceeded to add that the impact of this, however, was quite the opposite of what India may have desired. In the period since December 13, the ambassador pointed out, ‘‘India’s been mentioned on US TV much more than it’s ever been before’’ but only in two contexts — ‘‘war and communal violence.’’ ‘‘There is no question that tensions between India and Pakistan and communal violence dampen investors’ urge to come into the Indian market,’’ he added. But what about the US travel advisories, he was asked, aren’t they dampening sentiments of tourists? Why doesn’t the US embassy send out people to tourist spots, those that Americans used to visit earlier, and let them see just how safe India is, asked a hotelier in the audience. Blackwill felt this was irrelevant as US citizens didn’t ask the US government which was a good place to go travelling — ‘‘they don’t have so much faith in us’’ — but just got on to the internet. And since most websites also spoke of the communal tension and the possibility of war, where was the question of tourists wanting to come to India? Blackwill quoted ten-year statistics of tourism in China to buttress his point. Ten years ago, China earned $2.8 bn from tourism, and this is today $14.1 bn. By comparison, India’s tourism earnings rose from a mere $1.4 bn to $3.04 bn. The central theme of Blackwill’s address, in fact, was a comparison of India and China over the years, to show how India has frittered away her opportunities while China’s made the most of them. In 1991, both India and China had a similar per capita income, but today China’s per capita is double that of India; one percent of Indians have cellular phones as compared to over 11 percent in China; China got $336 bn of foreign investment in the last two decades while India got a mere $18 bn, ... the statistics flowed on. A whole lot of Indians, Blackwill said, argued that India’s economic reforms, though not as sweeping as China’s, were really very significant, and had to be viewed in the light of where India was in the ’80s. ‘The problem with this argument,’’ Blackwill said, ‘‘is that it is entirely retrospective. Alas, foreign investors are not economic historians.’’ They’re not bothered about how far a country’s economic policy has come, but make their investment decisions on the basis of the present and future policy environment in the country, he said. And India’s economic reforms, Blackwill pointed out, were plagued with a lot of uncertainty — ‘‘the disinvestment debate in the last two months is only the latest example,’’ he said. How much of the current problem that investors were facing, Blackwill was asked, had to do with the Dabhol issue — as on several occasions in the past, Blackwill said ‘‘within the US business community there is an erosion of confidence about whether the sanctity of contracts will be honoured in India.’’ This time around, however, since Enron is facing all manner of prosecution in the US itself, Blackwill diplomatically side-stepped the issue, and said it wasn’t just Dabhol, but really the cumulation of all events — the communal violence, the Indo-Pak tension, and the constant flip-flop over reforms.

 

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