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India ignoring war; Leavitt won't be ignored

Wilson: NEW DELHI, India — India, home to a billion people, is the second most populous Muslim country in the world. If Bush's war against Saddam Hussein is war against Islam, no one has clued in this country.

Generally, India is apathetic about war in Iraq. Rurally dominated and lacking daily news, many Indians have not heard of the recent set of worldwide tensions.

Officially, Prime Minister Vajpayee last week declared the "Middle Path," a Hindu phrase. New Delhi's Hindustan Times quotes the PM as "not wanting to offend either of our good friends." This week, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha pushed India closer to opposition as he declared the war would not be good for India because of increasing oil prices.

Preoccupied with struggles with Pakistan, India is more concerned with America's continued support of Pakistan, made necessary by the war in Afghanistan deposing the Taliban, and by the search for Osama and his ilk.

Our discussions here with members of the political establishment reveal attitudes toward an Iraqi war mirroring those of world opposition. Given to stereotypes, many high-placed Indians see Bush as a trigger-happy cowboy out to settle the scores of his father. Though Bush has not totally neglected India, he has not invested the personal time Bill Clinton did here. It is part of the price paid by focusing on terrorism.

One astute observer — K.P.S. Gill, the "super cop" sent to quell the Golden Temple uprising — and often interviewed on Indian news outlets, told us at lunch: "Your George Bush has himself in a bind. If he attacks Saddam without worldwide support, he threatens America's dominance of multi-lateral organizations. If he doesn't attack, he risks looking weak and will lower America's prestige. He'd better hope Saddam seeks asylum."

Indians thought America's war against terrorism would help them quell the almost daily violence in Kashmir by radical Jihad groups. Help was expected in exchange for India's support against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, PM Vajpayee blamed the United States for not following through on such commitments. He earned a call from Bush the next day.

But a phone call alone is not foreign policy, and the biggest knock against America in this part of the world is its short memory on deals made. The political balance in Pakistan and the need to get Pakistan's aid in chasing terrorists is too important to swing India's way.

As the Romans found, being the world's only superpower is, as they say in Delhi, "no cup of tea."

Webb: I have no great insights on the war, except to say that I support the president and pray for him and our troops.

Leavitt update: Gov. Mike Leavitt has been on a bit of a roll lately. He was expected to get beaten up or, even worse, ignored, in the recent legislative session. Instead, Leavitt played politics quite masterfully, displaying his impeccable sense of timing. When it was time to do deals he came on strong at the end of the session to get nearly everything he wanted. The economy cooperated with an uptick in state revenues, and Utah appears to have escaped the Draconian budget cuts, Medicaid cutbacks and employee layoffs that are becoming increasingly common in other states.

In addition, a number of Leavitt's pet projects and major initiatives are surging ahead. His Western Governors University, which had all but been written off by some in the media and higher education establishment, has made an amazing comeback as a national teachers college. WGU has a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, full accreditation and academic credentials, and enrollments are surging. While numerous online colleges were swept away in the dot-com implosion, WGU is poised for success and is breaking new ground in online and competency-based learning.

The governor's Enlibra initiative, which seeks to increase the velocity of environmental progress at less cost by avoiding and resolving environmental disputes, is also moving ahead. The Enlibra philosophy, ridiculed by some in Utah, has caught the attention of numerous high-level people in various agencies in the Bush administration. Significant funding is being sought, and prospects look bright for Enlibra.

Taxation on Internet sales is also making progress nationwide. Leavitt was way out in front on that one and took a lot of arrows, but it's clearly something that's going to happen. It's a matter of fairness and good tax policy.

Leavitt is a pretty easy-going guy, so people regularly underestimate his commitment, tenacity and hard work on initiatives he believes in. He doesn't give up, just keeps coming back to find ways to make a project a success.

Leavitt and his senior staff recently held a post-session planning retreat to map out the next year and a half. Leavitt remains energized, enthusiastic and committed to his major initiatives and 1,000-day plan. Staff members said they emerged from the retreat with more work and more projects than ever before. Leavitt's ideas never stop coming, they say.

So what does all this mean for 2004 and a possible run for an unprecedented fourth term? It means Leavitt clearly wants to stay involved in public service and public policy. It means he is considering a fourth term very seriously. It means he's sending clear and direct signals to other potential candidates that you enter at your own risk, that if he runs he's ready to take on all comers and he'll campaign tenaciously.


Democrat Ted Wilson, former Salt Lake mayor, directs the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. Wilson is a friend of and a private adviser to Mayor Rocky Anderson, and he has agreed to chair his election campaign in 2003. E-mail: tednews@hotmail.com. Republican LaVarr Webb was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. He now is a political consultant and lobbyist. E-mail: lavarrwebb@msn.com