- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Leaving 'Mother India'

Robert D. Blackwill, a strong defender of President Bush and the war in Iraq, yesterday announced his resignation as U.S. ambassador to India.

The high-profile diplomat said he is returning to his teaching position at Harvard University.

After spending two years in New Delhi, Mr. Blackwill said his thoughts of "Mother India" will keep him warm during the cold winters in Cambridge, Mass.

"Harvard beckons," Mr. Blackwill said in a farewell message posted on the U.S. Embassy's Web site (https://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/).

Mr. Blackwill said, "It has been a special privilege to serve the president over the past four years, first during the 2000 presidential campaign and then as U.S. ambassador to India."

Mr. Blackwill took up the post in July 2001.

India-U.S. relations have been "fundamentally transformed" under the Bush administration, he said, citing more than 100 visits by U.S. officials, the conduct of joint military exercises and the removal of economic sanctions imposed during the Clinton administration after India conducted nuclear-weapons tests.

"American and Indian counterparts now intensively engage across a broad spectrum of other essential subjects: the fight against terrorism, diplomatic collaboration, intelligence exchange, law enforcement, development assistance, the global environment, HIV/AIDS and other public health problems," he said.

Mr. Blackwill credited Mr. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for the "enormous strides" that improved bilateral relations.

"The U.S.-India relationship has a glittering future," he said. "To play a part in advancing this cause under President Bush's direction has been my duty, my pleasure and my encompassing strategic conviction."

Mr. Blackwill in January privately informed Mr. Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice of his decision to return to Harvard. He will remain in the post for "several more months" before leaving India, a spokesman said.

Mr. Blackwill wrote a series of articles for Indian newspapers over the past month, defending the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and citing the legal precedents for the actions.

In his latest article on April 11, he said the reconstruction of Iraq will promote democracy, guarantee Iraq's borders and secure its oil resources for the Iraqi people.

"The future of the new Iraq belongs solely to the people of Iraq," he said.

Mr. Blackwill spent 22 years in the Foreign Service before retiring to teach foreign and defense policy at Harvard. He said he and his wife, Wera, miss their five grown children and one grandchild in the United States.

"So during this coming New England winter," he said, "our vivid and lasting memories of India its people, its culture, its beauty will warm us as we face the snows."

Good riddance

While India may be sorry to see him go, U.S. ambassador Robert D. Blackwill will not be missed by Kashmir separatists.

Muslim activists opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir yesterday applauded his coming departure.

"Unlike his predecessors, Blackwill has always been partial [to India]," Shabir Shah, a leading Kashmiri separatist, told Agence France-Presse.

"He always supported the Indian position on Kashmir."

Moliva Abbas Ansari, a Muslim cleric and senior leader of the Hurriyat separatist organization, told the news service, "It is good that he is gone. Kashmiris see him as a biased man."

Kashmiri separatists have been fighting Indian rule since 1989 and favor U.S. intervention in the dispute. India insists that Kashmir is a dispute to be settled with Pakistan, which also controls part of the divided province. India accuses Pakistan of promoting Kashmiri terrorism, a charge Pakistan rejects

Mr. Blackwill said in a farewell message yesterday, "The fight against international terrorism will not be won until terrorism against India ends permanently.

"The United States, India and all civilized nations must have zero tolerance for terrorism. Otherwise, we sink into a swamp of moral relativism and strategic myopia."

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