- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2011

AMBASSADOR LEAVING INDIA

The U.S. ambassador to India announced his resignation Thursday, a day after learning that New Delhi dropped two American companies from the competition for a multibillion-dollar defense deal.

Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer insisted that his decision to quit was based on “family considerations” and that he had told President Obama that he would serve only two years when he was appointed in 2009. He plans to return to the United States in June.

In a separate statement, he said India rejected bids from the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to build fighter jets for the Indian air force. Mr. Roemer said the U.S. Embassy learned Wednesday that the two American companies lost out in the competition for the contract, which could be as high as $16 billion.

Mr. Roemer, a pro-life Indiana Democrat who served 12 terms in the House, was a strong political supporter of Mr. Obama’s during the 2008 presidential campaign. He later sought the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee but lost to Howard Dean. Some reports said Democratic activists thought Mr. Roemer was too conservative to lead the party.

“When I accepted this job two years ago, I told President Obama that I would serve for two years but that family considerations would be front and center after that,” he said in announcing his resignation.

He noted that two of his four children will be heading for college in the next 14 months and that he and his wife, Sally, want to spend time with them before they leave.

Mr. Roemer added that he “accomplished all of the strategic objectives” in fostering stronger ties between Washington and New Delhi.

However, those ties were not strong enough to keep Boeing and Lockheed Martin in the race for the defense contract, despite heavy lobbying by Mr. Obama.

The president last year led a delegation of top corporate executives, including Boeing’s W. James McNerney, on a trip to India and hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his first state dinner in 2009.

India is considering bids from the German consortium, Eurofighter Typhoon, and the French firm, Dassault Aviation, to build at least 126 aircraft to replace its aging fleet of Soviet-built MiG fighter jets.

INNER CIRCLE CRACKING

The United States is reaching out to key figures in Moammar Gadhafi’s inner circle who want to defect but are too afraid of retaliation from the Libyan dictator, according to the U.S. ambassador, who left Tripoli last year but remains in touch with Libyan rebels.

Ambassador Gene Cretz told reporters at the State Department this week that the potential defectors are not as highly placed as former Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, who defected to Britain last month.

“But these are people who head agencies and other technocrats,” he said. “They would like to break, but they’re … afraid for their lives, and they’re also afraid for their families.”

However, he warned them that the “time is fast approaching where they have to make a decision.”

“They can … either go down with the ship or else change sides,” he said.

Mr. Cretz also said the Obama administration is encouraged by its contacts with the rebel provisional government in Benghazi but not ready to give it diplomatic recognition. He said certain legal reasons are blocking that move, but he declined to give more details.

He called the opposition “a serious group worthy of support.”

“They continue to say the right things. They are reaching out to the international community. They’re trying to be as inclusive as possible,” he said.

Mr. Cretz was recalled to Washington last year, after the White House was embarrassed by the publication of leaked diplomatic cables that ridiculed Col. Gadhafi.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.