The United States needs to open new consulates in India, a country of 1.4 billion people, to know the realities on the ground, rather than being swayed by media reports. Michael Rubin, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in The National Interest that while American diplomats can read Indian newspapers or follow Indian television debates, without a constant presence it is impossible to remain adequately informed of developments in key regions.
Note that the State Department is still issuing a travel advisory for Jammu and Kashmir “due to terrorism and civil unrest,” even though the state has not experienced any significant terrorism or civil unrest since India normalized its internal status three years ago. Today it is thriving economically and socially and locals feel safe enough to get out and about at any time of the day or night. The State Department should be ashamed that its assessment of a region home to more than 13 million people is outdated; it delegitimizes all travel warnings and calls into question the competence of the entire process, Rubin said.
Outside of the US Embassy in New Delhi, there are only four State Department consulates in the country. The amount of money available is irrelevant if the State Department lacks wisdom on how to allocate it. Put simply, if US diplomacy is to be effective, it must adapt to 21st-century realities rather than 19th-century realities, The National Interest reported. I have previously written about the number of US policy blind spots caused by the State Department’s refusal to establish consulates in key regions such as Somaliland, Nagorno-Karabakh and Syrian Kurdistan. But perhaps none have had the consequences of neglecting India, Rubin said.
In addition to its regional diversity and political complexity, it is also an economic powerhouse. It has the world’s fifth largest economy on course to move up several spots if the government can resist populism and has the discipline to continue privatization and reform. Additionally, given the number of Punjabis in the United States who travel between the two countries, it also requires a consulate in the Punjabi capital of Chandigarh or its largest city, Ludhiana, The National Interest reported.
The computer and technology industry of the United States relies disproportionately on the labor and intellectual contributions of America’s vast Indian-American community. If Silicon Valley is the center of America’s computer industry, then Bengaluru is its counterpart in India. The interaction between the two is significant, Rubin said. While India maintains a consulate in San Francisco, the United States has no equivalent in Bengaluru; the nearest American post is more than 200 miles away in Chennai.
The US does not maintain a consulate dedicated to Uttar Pradesh, home to nearly 200 million people, a population larger than all but the seven largest countries. However, it’s not just about size. A state wedged between Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh may have a population of less than seven million, but its geopolitical role reinforces its importance.
The winter capital of Dharamshala is also the home of the Dalai Lama, who fled China after the communist conquest of Tibet and its central Tibetan administration. A consulate there would be better suited than any diplomatic post in China to handle Tibetan affairs without crossing the line of openly supporting separatism in China, Rubin said. (ANI)
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