India is mentioned on precisely 10 pages in Jon Bolton's more than 700 pages book - The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir.
The voluminous book mentions India twice along with China, twice along with Pakistan, twice with reference to Iran's oil sales, once with reference to trade, once with reference to nuclear non-proliferation, once with reference to Russian sale of S-400 missiles and once in the context of a comment by President Donald Trump on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to The Wire, John Bolton's new book has sparse pickings about India - and even those are largely related to either multilateral agreements or other foreign policy priorities like Iran. The few comments that he made about India are not in a positive light, complained Sandeep Dikshit of Tribune India.
The only standalone reference to a foreign policy issue directly related to India was a short indirect mention of the February 2019 crisis that erupted following the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir killing 40 Indian soldiers.
Bolton records that he was planning to turn in for the evening, when acting US secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joseph alerted him to a "ballooning crisis between India and Pakistan".
"After hours of phone calls, the crisis passed, perhaps because, in substance, there never really had been one. But when two nuclear powers spin up their military capabilities, it is best not to ignore it. No one else cared at the time, but the point was clear to me: this was what happened when people didn't take nuclear proliferation from the likes of Iran and North Korea seriously," wrote Bolton.
In order to pressurize Iran, the US had imposed sanctions on the sale of Iranian crude, but had granted waivers to eight countries, including India, in November 2018. Bolton said that State Department officials were advocating for an extension of waivers to these countries, rather than working to stop their purchases.
"One of the worst cases involved India, which, like the others, was buying Iranian oil at prices well below the global market because Iran was so desperate to make sales," Bolton wrote.
He said that India had complained that it would have to pay more for new sources as they would insist on market prices. "India's making this argument was understandable, but it was incomprehensible that US bureaucrats echoed it sympathetically."
Bolton recounts that from March to April 2019, Trump became increasingly adamant on removing all waivers - and was not interested in listening to partners.
"In a phone call with (US Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo, Trump had not been sympathetic to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, "He'll be okay."" Bolton recalled this as part of his description of Trump's "indifferences" to notifying allies about waiver decisions.
Trump also asked me to look into a news report on India's purchasing Russian S-400 air defense systems because, said India, the S-400 was better than America's Patriot defense system, Bolton writes.
In a chapter on Afghanistan, he mentioned that Trump during a meeting on negotiations with the Taliban wanted to talk to Prime Minister Modi to discuss Kashmir. However, the former national security advisor did not mention the context of the conversation. "Then, switching to Kashmir, 'I want to call Modi on Monday', he (Trump) said. 'We have tremendous power [...] because of trade'," Bolton wrote.
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