- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

Time has come

Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen arrived in Washington in 2004 with what many thought was a starry-eyed expectation of a boom in U.S.-India trade.

“People were polite,” he said of skeptics who doubted there was much in India for Americans to invest in. “They thought I was suffering from jet lag.”

Four years later, the world’s two largest democracies have become two of the world’s largest trading partners. From $21 billion in bilateral trade in 2001, business has soared to $32 billion, while the U.S. investors found a rich market in India.

The United States is now India’s largest investment partner, financing $9 billion in ventures in 2006, according to U.S. trade figures.

Mr. Sen, addressing the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University, quoted the famous 19th century French writer Victor Hugo.

“ ’There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,’ ” Mr. Sen said. “For India and the United States, the time has come.”

President Bush and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have held summit meetings in New Delhi and Washington to talk about trade, defense cooperation, nuclear power and terrorism. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld traveled to India in 2004, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed in 2005. Foreign Minister Natwar Singh and Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee returned the visits also in 2005.

Now the biggest issue in both capitals is the landmark nuclear energy deal that would allow India to purchase U.S. nuclear technology while opening its nuclear power plants to international inspections. The deal would not affect India’s nuclear weapons program.

However, the deal faces opposition in the Parliament of India and the U.S. Congress, which is one reason India needs the experienced ambassador to stay on in Washington. Mr. Sen had been scheduled to retire this week.

“I am sorry to get you here under false pretenses,” he told a large luncheon crowd that included many who expected his appearance to have been his last in Washington.

“I was supposed to be leaving, but I am staying on for another year.”

Canadian complex

The controversy over the Canadian connection to a leak from Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign just got more complicated.

Last month, Canadian press reports revealed that a key economic adviser to the Illinois Democrat, Austan Goolsbee, contacted the Canadian consul-general in Chicago, George Rioux, to explain that Mr. Obama was just playing politics when he said he wanted to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

This week, Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported that Ian Brodie, a top aide to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, actually told journalists on Feb. 26 that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, not Mr. Obama’s, had contacted Canadian government officials to tell them to ignore the New York Democrat’s own criticism of NAFTA.

However, Tom Clark, the Washington correspondent for Canadian Television (CTV), reported the next day on the Obama connection, leaving some observers to wonder whether both campaigns called the Canadians.

The dispute took on yet another wrinkle this week when the political opposition in the Canadian Parliament demanded that Ambassador Michael Wilson resign his post at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

Navdeep Bains, a Liberal Party member of Parliament, said Mr. Wilson should at least step down until Mr. Harper completes an internal investigation to find out who leaked what to whom.

“He should step aside until the investigation is complete. Unfortunately, the government is not responding,” Mr. Bains told the Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

Mr. Wilson has acknowledged that Mr. Clark contacted him before airing his report last month but has declined to discuss the details of their conversation.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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