Natwar Singh was in Washington DC today and met President Bush in the Oval Office. Rediff calls this historic, as Natwar is the first Indian Foreign Minister to enter the Oval Office. In International Diplomatic mating ritual, an invite to the Oval Office is considered as getting access to the second base. Till now, the President would drop-in while the Minister was meeting the Secretary of State or someone like that. (It is also possible that the President lost his way and reached the wrong room). So this is what is now considered progress and we have learned to become happy in symbolic gestures.
One of the major issues recently was that the United States is giving some F-16s to Pakistan. Apparently Natwar Singh did not raise the issue at all in his meeting with the President. The focus was on economic and energy coperation. The counterpoint is, even if you raise the issue, the answer will be standard canned one – vital ally in war on terror, need to strengthen him etc. Scott McClellan also mentioned that the United States believes that these F-16s do not affect the balance of power in the region.
While India seems to have accepted this decision, few folks are still fighting the F-16 sales. Gary Ackerman & Co. are going to introduce the Pakistan Proliferation Accountability Act of 2005 which demands access to AQ Khan as a condition for getting the F-16s.
One of the things the President told Natwar Singh was that he is interested in visiting India either this year or next year. It will be interesting to see the Indian Commies having to shake hands with the President. More interesting is the question – will the President visit Pakistan and if so, will he have to sneak in like Clinton?