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A strong contender for head of the CIA until Leon Panetta pipped him to the post, Tim Roemer, the new American ambassador-designate for India, is influential back home and appears to share many of India’s perceptions about Pakistan. But that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing for New Delhi and Washington…
18 April 2009
Obama pick for India has ear of White House
New Delhi: A senior Democrat politician and former Congressman who helped deliver the crucial state of Indiana to Barack Obama in the American presidential race is likely to be named the next U.S. ambassador to India.
Tim Roemer, currently head of the Center for National Policy, a Washington think-tank, was identified by Foreign Policy magazine’s normally reliable beltway affairs blog, ‘The Cable’, as President Obama’s pick for New Delhi. If confirmed, he would have beaten veteran India hands Karl Inderfurth and Marshall Bouton to the job despite not having much of a South Asia connection of his own.
Given his proximity to Obama and his Chief of Staff, Roemer certainly will have a line to the White House, a former U.S. State Department official told The Hindu from Washington, something Robert Blackwill and David Mulford, the previous two U.S. envoys in Delhi had. “But I think the problem for India this time will be not lack of access but lack of interest, given the preoccupation of everybody here with AfPak,” the former official added.
Mr. Roemer served in the House of Representatives from 1991 to 2003. He was a member of the bipartisan commission established by the Congress to look into the events leading up to 9/11. More recently, he served on the bipartisan Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, whose alarming report, The World at Risk, released last year, spoke of the danger of WMDs being used in a terrorist attack by 2013 unless the world community acted decisively now. Pakistan was singled out by the commission as the weakest link in world security. “Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan,” the report stated. On India, the commission endorsed the July 2005 agreement with the U.S. but warned that bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation must not be allowed to become the catalyst of a nuclear arms race in Asia.”
Indian officials wary of the Obama administration’s approach to the region are likely to take some comfort from Mr. Roemer’s forthright views on terrorism emanating from Pakistan. In an op-ed last year, he cited reports of Pakistani complicity in the terrorist bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul to argue that U.S. military aid to Pakistan must be “results oriented” and not open-ended.
In an interview to The Atlantic in January on the appointment of Leon Panetta as CIA chief, Mr. Roemer said the most difficult issue America’s top spy would have to confront was “the rapidly expanding terrorist network that is metastasizing and growing around the world, not just in Afghanistan but rebuilding in Pakistan, associating with groups like that that can strike into Mumbai.” [Alternative link to interview can be found here]
In another op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, however, he also argued that America “must address the tension between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. For generations, this issue has fueled extremism and served as a central source of friction between two nuclear states. Resolving this dispute would allow them to focus more on sustainable development and less on armed conflict.”