Air Commodore (Retd) Khalid Iqbal
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, who ironically enjoys the reputation of being American ambassador to Pakistan, based in Washington, has recently quipped, "The most hated country in Pakistan is our top trading partner, top aid donor, top weapon supplier and top remittance source".
Significant reason behind this anomaly is the snowballing India-US nexus at the cost of Pakistan. De-hyphenating of India-Pakistan in American strategic calculus has indeed created more problems for America and this region than it intended to resolve. Obsession to sponsor the rise of India as a major player on Asian geopolitical canvas has severely curtailed American leverage over India; Obama dare not pronounce ‘K’ for Kashmir once again!
Barrack Obama’s visit to India had left a negative impact on the whole region which has been reinforced by Hillary’s recent rhetoric. By prompting India to bite more than it could chew, America is well on its way to sow the seeds of perpetual destabilization of this region at the expense of China as well as India itself.
While in the past America played effective role to diffuse Pak-India tensions and did not allow the matters to degenerate into tactical showdown, it also winked its eye to allow India maintain strategic pressures through military deployments, diplomatic manoeuvres and resource squeezing.
Pakistan and America differ considerably on issues of vital interest to Pakistan; nuclear policy, energy acquisition from Iran and China, end game in Afghanistan, Kashmir conflict etc are some major areas of divergence. Most of these issues are intricately liked to India. Hence a Pakistan-India-America triangle has emerged; a sort of re-hyphenation in a crude form. America retains a cunning balancing leverage between India and Pakistan; and uses the pressure points aptly to make Pakistan and India do American bidding.
Recently the US lawmakers have rejected the bill regarding stoppage of aid to Pakistan but have agreed to attach strings. Public opinion is gaining strength that stringed aid may be refused and to make up for the loss, Pakistan should proportionately enhance the transit fee on American supply containers and also impose transit fee on aircraft destined for Afghan war zone through Pakistan.
America frequently partners Indian effort in maintaining a high pitched tirade against Pakistan’s armed force and the ISI; this has scaled new heights since the cowardly Abbottabad attack. All guns are being directed against Pakistan. Political leadership is being spared of any wrong doing with a clear objective of creating a wedge between the political and military echelons of national leadership.
Timed with Hillary’s recent visit, Americans took a well calculated step to appease India by arresting Kashmiri American Council President, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai. Indian reaction was of joy. Arrest is a setback to the legitimate rights of the people of Kashmir, specially their struggle for self-determination. Pakistani government showed an angry response. Foreign office announced that "A demarche was made to the US embassy in Islamabad to register the concerns, in particular the slander campaign against Pakistan."
To mitigate the defeat in Afghanistan, the US is working overtime to shift the blame for every wrong to Pakistan. To consolidate towards this end, America hpw is all set to involve India in Afghanistan, militarily. While in India, Hillary Clinton sought to reassure India that the United States has no plan to cut and run when it comes to Afghanistan. Indeed Hillary was bluffing, those familiar with Obama administration’s thinking are of the view that White House wants to be able to point to concrete achievements in the country in the run-up to 2012 elections, while wrapping things up in Afghanistan "at any cost".
In the context of terrorism, India needs to understand that militants are well-organised from Somalia to Afghanistan and from Central Asian Republics to the Occupied Kashmir. International security analysts are already predicting that India is on the brink of becoming a battle ground of these trans-national groups. Outreach of these elements is much broader than Pakistan’s logical capacity to handle them; even America is unable to contain them. Pakistan has already proposed setting up of SAARC police for pooling up regional resources for this purpose.
Hillary Clinton played another pressure card by projecting India as the leading power in Asia. This effort was launched to coax India into a proxy role to counterbalance China. Hillary called upon India to become a more assertive leader in Asia, in South-East Asia, the Pacific Rim, in Central Asia and Pacific Ocean.
The fact is that India is having a hard time holding its own in its immediate neighbourhood, as China is expanding its links with Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal. Hence, to expect India to match China in South-East Asia and the Pacific Rim, where China has built-in advantages, is a pipe dream. India will remain cautious while siding with Americans against the Chinese. It needs China’s nod to realise its aspiration for a permanent UNSC berth.
Under these settings, the fate of Pak-India foreign minister level talks was correctly pre-judged by the analysts of India and Pakistan. There was unanimity of opinion that parleys would remain at the cosmetic level, routines would be discussed and core issues would be sidestepped. Travel, trade, terrorism etc would be in forefront; water and Kashmir in the background. Mumbai would be highlighted and ‘Samjhota Express’ would get a passing mention. Matters have moved the same way. Nevertheless, some functional dialogue process is always better than none.
In an upbeat assessment after their meeting, Indian Foreign Minister said ties were back “on the right track,” while Pakistani Foreign Minister spoke of a “new era” of cooperation. Nevertheless, there was little in the way of substantive agreements to back up the general mood of optimism. Joint statement was monotonous, envisaging a general bilateral effort to combat terrorism, increase trade and keep the peace dialogue going.
One must understand that now America is in the driving seat of Pak-India interactions; talks are likely to follow the pattern of ‘sound good solve nothing’. After all America has a long experience of sponsoring futile dialogue like process between Palestine and Israel. It remains for India and Pakistan not to get locked into a zero sum game. Both countries need to strengthen their bilateral institutions to absorb the sporadic crises and move on.