The Obama visit to India

Written by: One India
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New Delhi, Dec 3 (ANI): The Wikileaks tsunami is yet to peak. It would, thus, be premature to comment on what impact they will ultimately have on Pakistan and the future of Indo-Pak and US-Pak relations. What has appeared so far has confirmed what Indians have been saying for a long time about Pakistan's active sponsorship of terror groups as a tool of foreign policy.

For example, the then US Ambassador to Pakistan, Ann Patterson had concluded in September 2009 that " there is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups (terrorist groups), which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India."

Her prescription of reassessing US policies towards India to allay Pak fears was, much to Pakistan's dismay, turned on its head by President Obama during his recent visit to India.

The Obama visit has been intensely debated in Pakistan. At least 5 issues have been highlighted that Pakistan sees as being favourable to India:

(i) Support to India's candidature as a permanent member of the UNSC

(ii) US inability or reluctance to play a significant (i.e pro-Pakistan) role in moderating tensions between India and Pakistan

(iii) US prescription that that the Indo-Pak dialogue should progress from more easily soluble issues to addressing the most difficult problems.

(iv) US encouragement of India's increased role in Afghanistan,

(v) Terrorist safe havens within Pakistan needed to be dismantled and the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice

Pakistan has drawn some satisfaction that US $ 5 billion was promised prior to Obama's visit to India. But, as has been pointed out, this aid has yet to be approved the US Congress which could attach conditions like Pakistan act against the Haqqani network, something that Pakistan has avoided doing so far.

At least three strands are notable in how the visit has been perceived:.

One are the jilted lovers, characterized largely by the Urdu media and the rabble rousing politicians. The argument is that Pakistan has been fighting America's war, which has now spilled over into its own borders. It is waging a serious war against the likes of the TTP and other hardline Islamic groups in which over 3000 Army personnel and thousands of civilians have died since 2004. And yet, an ungrateful US has cozied up to arch enemy India. Thus, the US is no friend.

Further, Pakistan had the right to have high expectations from the US because of the sacrifices made. However, the end result was disappointment. Henceforth, Pakistan should have no expectations from the US. Instead, they should use the China card to keep India at bay.

The second are the straw clutchers - too much should not be read into the visit. After losing the House elections, a lame duck President Obama cannot force an agenda or decisions and the unipolar world is about to end. The US economy is in such bad shape that it needs Indian support in terms of concessions given to the US industry for jobs. The UNSC seat, symbolic though it may be, is in the distant future and is complicated to achieve.

In this version, the so-called strategic partnership between the US and India is doomed to failure. For one thing, India would not agree to be a US proxy against China. For another, India would pursue its own policy on Iran and Myanmar. Moreover, the US needs the cooperation of Pakistan in Afghanistan much more than it needs India's.

A discordant note in this view is that given Obama's silence on Kashmir, India could become more inflexible and less inclined to talk to Pakistan on Kashmir.

The third are the more sophisticated and nuanced analysts who feel that the US has established strategic relations with India which, in any case, had been developing for the last 20 years with bipartisan support of both the Republicans and Democrats. Indian strength is its economy, a factor that is becoming increasingly important.

Yet, the feeling is that the security alignment with Pakistan would continue to remain important for the US, in Afghanistan and the war on terror. Pakistan is clearly seen as linked to US success in Afghanistan. Whether it is facilitating negotiations with the Taliban or spoiling them, or continuing to support the Haqqani network or moving against them, a solution to Afghanistan is through Pakistan alone. Hence, relations with India cannot be at the cost of Pakistan. It is not a zero sum game.

But there is concern that if there is a settlement in Afghanistan, if the US withdraws from Afghanistan where would it leave Pakistan? Pakistan's leverage would be drastically reduced. Thus, it is a transitional/temporary relationship.

Apart from the various views, what the Obama visit has done is to force the Pakistanis to see themselves in a mirror. And the image they see is not flattering. Elements of this self-image are:

(i) Pakistan cannot always leverage its geo-strategic position, which is becoming a fading asset. It cannot live on the Afghan card alone any more. Pakistan in fact has become bogged down in Afghanistan.

(ii) Accepting its geo-political limitations, Pakistan must focus on its internal problems and especially the economy.

(iii) Mainstream politicians don't really figure in US calculations. The US talks to the military directly which has control over foreign policy.

(iv) A core element of Pak foreign policy has been leveraging the US against India. After the Obama visit, this is no longer realistic. The US can, at best, facilitate given India's size and development.

(v) India is in a different league due to its economy.

The overall conclusion in Pakistan over the visit is that the US had chosen firmly to pursue independent policies with regard to India and Pakistan, each with its own rationale. While Pakistan has been linked to Afghanistan, India is on a different trajectory altogether.

What has hurt Pakistan the most is that it did not expect to be put on the expedient and temporary tactical track while India was put on the long-term strategic track.

Tragically, even now, there is very little acknowledgement in Pakistan that the major consideration for the US, as with the rest of the West, is India's fast growing economy and market. Pakistan is still frozen in a security paradigm where it feels that its geographical location alone is enough for the rest of the world to give it importance while it merrily spawns terrorist groups as a tool of its foreign policy.

The earlier Pakistan realizes that economic development far outweighs being a nuisance, the better it would be for itself and its people.

Obama's visit has made the 'Dear John' writing on the wall crystal clear. The limited Wikileaks revelations only reinforces how the US perceives Pakistan. Will Pakistan read the writing? By Salim Haq(ANI)

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