A decisive moment : India, Pakistan on different paths

September 7, 2008

The irony is hard to miss. Just as Pakistan is struggling with the fallout of the first known breach of its territorial sovereignty by U.S. ground troops and all the odium associated with it in a proud nation, India has been welcomed into the nuclear high table, almost entirely at America’s behest.

Two unrelated events but coming days apart seemed to underline the divergent paths the two nations are embarked upon.  One has a gun pointed to it; the other is being wooed.

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On Saturday, America railroaded whatever opposition there was from smaller countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to civilian nuclear trade with India, despite its refusal to give up nuclear weapons and sign the NPT. As far as New Delhi is concerned the approval is a momentous decision as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, because it ends 34 years of sanctions and isolation following the first nuclear test in 1974.

I remember an Indian defence scientist telling me way back that the sanctions were so pervasive that some institutions blacklisted by the United States on suspicion they were involved in the nuclear weapons programme couldn’t even import a toothbrush from there.

In one stroke, and in line with the way in which the Bush administration has gone about remaking the world in its own image, all that has changed. India’s nuclear weapons aren’t a problem any more as America builds a new strategic partnership that many see as aimed at balancing China.

And what of Pakistan ? A seat at the nuclear table is probably the farthest thing on anyone’s mind including perhaps Islamabad’s as it struggles with  more fundamental issues of territorial integrity at this point. The raid this week by U.S. forces may signal an even more intense attacks as this report says.

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But the Pakistan government, says Gary Leupp, a history professor at Tufts University, has provided more assistance to the United States than any other as it pursues its goals in southwest Asia. No country has been more dramatically destabilized as the price of its cooperation.
 
“But not only does the U.S. political class take this disastrous compliance for granted, it wants to further emphasize Islamabad’s irrelevance by attacking the border area at will,” he writes. And ominously it’s not just the Bush crowd; Senator Barack Obama has been saying that the United States must do more to press Pakistan to act against the Islamist militants as an earlier post on this blog pointed out. 

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