You may have to squint to see the compliment in here.

The Sunday Times – India: Bush’s forgotten triumph, by Bill Emmott

For both Tony Blair and George Bush there is no escaping the huge stain on their legacy from the debacle in Iraq. However much they defend their records, as Blair did last week in his BBC interview, historians and public opinion alike will still consider it a vast foreign policy failure.

But for President Bush there is one hope that his record might at least be mitigated by a different foreign policy move he has made. That move is America’s rapprochement with India.

Bush has been America’s worst president since Richard Nixon.

Goodness, has history spoken already?

Yet there is another, more intriguing parallel. Nixon’s era was defined by the shame of Watergate and the disastrous final years of Vietnam, but is remembered now even more for his radical strategic move of opening up relations with China.

In Bush’s case, although foreign policy has been dominated by Afghanistan and Iraq, it may prove that his most important strategic move was the nuclear pact between the United States and India signed a year ago.

The pact is admittedly not as radical an innovation as Nixon’s visit to China. It amounted to a bold acceleration of a shift towards India that had been begun by Bill Clinton. It has driven a herd of elephants through the global nonproliferation regime by making India a special case.

“You’re fat, you’re ugly, and you smell bad. But you have a decent record collection. Oh and you have a really hideous haircut.”

No doubt persuaded further by my current visit to Delhi, I now think the earlier criticism of the US-India pact was shortsighted. America should probably have extracted more concessions from India about the inspections regime for its nuclear operation.

But that regime was already well and truly bust, even before the Indian deal, as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear she-nanigans have long shown.

The pact will make no difference to the conduct of either of those rogues, and has no real effect on the limited willingness of other countries to impose punishing sanctions on them. America’s rapprochement with India is directed at a far bigger issue than that. That issue is China. …

Don’t be fooled by well-photo-graphed summits such as the one this past week between the Russian, Chinese and Indian foreign ministers. India wants to be sure those relationships are smooth, for economic as well as political reasons. But Indians have no real trust in the Russians and are deeply suspicious of the Chinese. Memories of the Indo-Chinese border war in 1962 remain sharp, as does resentment of China’s military support for Pakistan. India’s natural friendships are in the West. After all, rich Indians do not send their sons and daughters to school or university in China or Russia. They send them to Britain and, especially, to the United States.

Bush should get credit for realising this and being bold enough to exploit it. India needs help if it is to become economically stronger, especially in the building of much needed infrastruc-ture and electric power plants. The world also needs India to get stronger, to extend its political and economic influence into the rest of Asia, and thus to prevent China from dominating that region. It is not a question of “containing” China, but of balancing its power.

Future historians should give Bush low marks for his deadly incompetence in Iraq. That alone is enough to condemn his presidency to the list marked “failure”. But, as with Nixon’s visit to China, that failure can and should be mitigated by Bush’s one shrewd and successful strategic step: the recognition of India’s importance.

“God you disgust me. By the way, can I borrow your Elvis Costello?”