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Tenor of Indo-US relations and options for Pakistan

By S. Sadia Kazmi

The Indo-US embrace of each other is getting tighter and tighter. A number of positive developments clearly point to the US resolute where it is determined to pursue a policy to ensure the rise of India not only as a regional power but as an important global player as well. This affection towards India is not just to empower it in the international political arena, driven by some benevolent disposition, but underlies an obvious game of self interests on both sides. While India stands immensely benefitted by the concession, waivers, leverages and cooperative arrangements, in the economic and military terms, the US on the other hand seeks to find in India an important contestant against China within the Asia Pacific region.  With US having great interests and security concerns lying in Asia Pacific, it wants to ascertain that India should not prove to be an easy competitor for China. Distracting China from its economic pursuits and causing disruptions to the OBOR initiative, while getting it engaged and preoccupied in its own backyard, and ultimately disabling China’s rise as an economic and military opponent on the world stage, is the ultimate objective both India and the US are aiming at. No wonder the US has been investing a lot in India for this purpose and at the same time is quite vocal in exalting India’s status by terming it as its strategic partner and an instrumental “pivot” in its Asia Pacific Policy.

Hence in the light of above mentioned realities in the world of Realpolitik, it appears justified on the part of the US to exhibit a “discriminatory” attitude towards Pakistan and extend a “preferential” treatment to India. Governed by the Idea that each state is eventually striving for its own survival and self interest and may go to any extent to make that possible, the “Realist” driven international politics doesn’t hold anyone accountable on their seemingly unjust or biased overtures. It’s a fact that the shifting regional and global realities have caused waning of US interest in Pakistan. Nonetheless, in order to divert world attention from its prejudiced policies, the Western propaganda machinery is fast churning out lies against Pakistan. It is bent upon proving Pakistan’s alleged fraudulence in fighting off terrorism and extremism. Even though Pakistan had long been serving as a front line non-NATO ally to the US to fight a war, which is not even its own.  Pakistan is also being accused of having links with the Haqqani network, against which it is not doing “enough”. Since Pakistan is an important player in China’s flagship OBOR project, the idea is to pressurize Pakistan and cripple it economically, leaving it highly vulnerable for any potential investors. Hence Pakistan’s economic, military, political and diplomatic isolation is the “not-so-hidden” agenda, mutually being pursued by the US and India. It is for the same reason that the sale of F-16 to Pakistan has been withheld, in the opposition of which, the US lawmakers have been quite instrumental.

The same US lawmakers however, have recently allowed amendments to the US defence bill last Thursday. As per the amendments, India is being proposed to be considered on par with the NATO allies. This means that India will be as eligible as any other NATO ally for the sale of defence equipment and technology transfer. Now what makes India deserving of this favor by the US, while it is clearly aware that such a step is going to be detrimental for the regional stability, specifically causing a big blow to Pakistan’s position in the region, exposing it to even greater security threats, can hardly be justified on nay ground. Not only the US has shamelessly gone back on its commitment to provide the F-16s, it has also immediately blocked the $450 million in aid to Pakistan. The US lawmakers are constantly insisting on strict restrictions on Pakistan unless it meets out the suggested conditions.

While Pakistan has been intentionally left in the limbo to deal with the security mess created by the outsiders, a constant stream of accusations is being hurled at it, making it appear as a country that cannot be trusted anymore as a responsible state. The recent killing of Mullah Mansur on Pakistani soil is yet another assault on Pakistan’s commitment towards exterminating terrorism. His presence in Pakistan helps prove the Western suspicion that Pakistan is providing shelter to the terrorists. Even though the authenticity of such allegations and even the claim of Mullah Manusr’s presence in Pakistan, are still contested, but the Indian and Western propaganda is actively engaged in tarnishing Pakistan credibility and world image.

These realities once again point to an important factor where unfortunately Pakistani leadership has always been lacking and that is the incapability of acquiring a sufficient clout within the international community on nations. Our diplomatic front either doesn’t recognize the gravity of situation or have already given up in the face of consistent turmoil.  The Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and the Special Assistant to the PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi have not been able to cultivate any favorable conditions for Pakistan, despite having the diplomatic acumen.  They need to realize that putting all eggs in one basket, China in our case, is not a tactful strategy. At the same time the US cannot be kicked out for good. Also Pakistan should brace itself for the possible turbulent times where the anti-US sentiments might prop up the religious extremist factions in the after math of Mullah Mansur’s killing, creating further instability and hotbed likely to invite more violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by its detractors.  Pakistan’s diplomatic machinery should device a timely mechanism to deal with this two pronged strategy.  The US should be made to realize that the only way regional stability can be guaranteed is by adopting a joint equitable strategy for both Pakistan and India without discriminating between the two.

At the same time, India is watchful of the US designs. The retrospective evaluation of the US’ policy trends reveal that it tends to “exploit” states for its own personal gains and once those are achieved, the partnership is usually disbanded.  This happened with Iraq, which the US strengthened against Iran, but later invaded it reducing it to shambles. Similarly Pakistan has been used time and again to protect US interests against Russia in Afghanistan and later to fight off terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, only to be eventually left alone to deal with the repercussions in the form of insurgency, and extremism within the country. Hence India should not rule out the possibility that the same could very well happen to it too. Even though the volume of arms export to India from the US has surpassed the one from Russia, but ultimately this is feeding the American Military Industrial Complex, hence again serving US interests.  Additionally, the US’ motives to strengthen India against China to secure its own interests in the region can be translated into India being taken as a mercenary.  It is believed that India is not oblivious to these realities, and may try to cut some slack independent of the US. After securing maximum influence in the international community it may pursue its own independent course, which later on might even come in clash with that the of the US.  Hence the possibility of distrust, skepticism and suspicion in the Indo-US relations cannot be completely ruled out. Pakistan should try to exploit this slight obstruction between the two by highlighting the cons repeatedly and at all international forums, and by putting in more consolidated diplomatic efforts to manipulate the situation in its own favor.

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Sadia Kazmi

Sadia Kazmi works as a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. She is a PhD candidate at the National Defense University

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