India joined a growing list of nations to snub the U.S. Secretary of State last week, scuttling an important WTO agreement on customs and trade while Kerry was in New Delhi.This decision, Donald Kirk argues in Forbes, may be at least as significant as Kerry’s recent, high-profile set-backs in the Middle East:
After failing to win agreement to a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas, the secretary of state when he got to New Delhi ran into a stone wall on a wide range of issues. The problems seem about as intractable as those in the Middle East and as worrisome considering India’s ties to Russia and the widespread view that India under the conservative Narendra Modi, however business-minded he may be, will resist U.S. pressure as much as his predecessors.No sooner had Kerry arrived in India than he had to absorb the disillusionment of India’s refusal to sign a trade and facilitation agreement under the aegis of the World Trade Organization that would, as a minimum, have standardized customs rules. That was a special shock considering that India, in ministerial-level meetings in Bali last December, had totally endorsed the agreement. India’s sudden reversal at the vote in Geneva last week meant not only that the agreement was dead but that the WTO might as well be dead too.
The failure of Kerry’s Hamas peace proposal and the Indian snub are just the latest in a long line of incidents in which countries ignored U.S. interests, often quite pointedly, when the Secretary of State was in town. These have ranged from outright repudiations of American foreign policy goals to petty gestures, as when Kerry was patted down before meeting Egyptian President al-Sisi last month.Between Kerry’s Middle East missteps and the Administration’s shaky grasp on international dynamics, it’s beginning to look to foreign powers as if however nattily dressed the Secretary may be, the emperor’s foreign policy has no clothes.