Daily Archives: January 19, 2010

Gideon Rachman

I have just spent a couple of days at the German Marshall’s Fund of the United States’s “China Forum” – which oddly enough is always held in Sweden. That is a nice international combination for you. I love Stockholm, but it is perhaps not at its most charming at this time of the year. Together with the various Chinese, American and European participants, I spent a fair amount of time looking out of the window at the snow and the ice floes floating in the harbour.

It was a fascinating time to be discussing relations between China and the West. There is a lot going on. (See my column this week, just below). And one of the events whose significance people are still trying to decipher is the Copenhagen climate summit of last month.

There was lots of interesting corridor gossip about what happened at the final climactic meeting. Everybody agreed that Barack Obama had walked into a meeting convened by the Chinese, with the Brazilians, South Africans and Indians. Some said Obama had gatecrashed deliberately. Others that he had simply arrived on time for a 7pm bilateral with the Chinese Pm, Wen Jiabao, and entered the room on that basis. The most detailed version of what happened next that I heard, goes as follows. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Correspondent

Another thing that strikes me about Bob Gates’ trip to India is the strategic vagueness of it all. In the map of the 21st century world, the US sees India as an indispensable partner, even if the country’s size, prospects and independent-mindedness means it will never become a full ally.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both paid extended visits to the country, a courtship that ultimately produced a civil nuclear deal between Washington and Delhi and – this is where Gates comes in – plans to intensify military co-operation.

The next big goal seems elusive, even though the US wants to encourage Delhi to become more of a counterweight to China and is keen in the extreme for India and Pakistan to cool mutual tensions (so allowing Islamabad to focus more on battling the Taliban than on its powerful neighbour). Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Correspondent

I am travelling with the US defence secretary Robert Gates and a clutch of itinerant journalists to India and there’s a certain dowdy potency about the whole experience.

Gates, a CIA and White House veteran who has served some seven presidents, is a very big fish in Washington and well beyond.

His record of working for President George W. Bush – during which time he presided over the successful surge in Iraq- has given him massive clout in the Obama administration, and his support for sending 30,000 more troops may well have been decisive in the recent debate over Afghanistan.

But Gates himself is a low-key guy, who slipped into jeans as soon as he was on board the airplane and who rates his own common sense approach to problems more than any more flashy qualities. Read more