CAP report revives focus on India-Pakistan relationship

November 18, 2008













Of all the reports I have read recently about what the United States should do about Pakistan, none so forcefully puts it in the context of its relationship with India as this latest study by the Center for American Progress (see the full pdf document here).

It’s worth reading not least because the think tank is expected to play an influential role in shaping the policies of President-elect Barack Obama. “Come January, perhaps none will be more piped into the executive branch than the 5-year-old Center for American Progress,” according to

Add to that that the fact that under the Republican administration India shook off its association with Pakistan to become a strategic partner of the United States in its own right, and the report starts looking like a radical shift in policy. Under the administration of President George W. Bush, India worked to   “de-hyphenate” its relationship with Pakistan, while building a partnership with the United States that culminated in the U.S.-India nuclear deal. From the U.S. point of view, it won an ally that could be used to contain China.  Now it looks like the hyphen is making a comeback.

The idea that India needs to be involved in a regional solution to the problems posed by Pakistan and Afghanistan has been around for a while, and Obama himself has said that the United States should try to help resolve the Kashmir dispute. But this report is remarkably forthright in spelling out why.

“Afghanistan, India and Pakistan are inextricably linked, and U.S. policy must be formulated accordingly,” it says. “Any regional approach must address Pakistan’s security concerns with India, specifically related to Kashmir and Afghanistan.”

This argument is fundamental, since it holds that the cause of instability in Afghanistan is in Pakistan, and that Pakistan in turn will never fully turn its back on Islamist militants as long as it believes it might need them to counter India.


















The report says that while the United States sees al Qaeda and the Taliban as immediate threats to both U.S. and Pakistani security, the Pakistani military continues to focus on India as its “overarching priority”. (It has done so since Pakistan was created in 1947, and perhaps even more so since 1971, when Pakistan was divided in two, when Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, won independence with military help from India.) “The Pakistani military’s overriding security concern since the country’s inception has been the perceived existential threat from neighbouring India,” it says.

It argues that under U.S. pressure following 9/11, the Pakistani security establishment went after al Qaeda. But facing growing Indian influence in Afghanistan, it left other Islamist militant groups alone. These included Kashmiri groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban. “The Pakistan military’s fear of an encroaching India, an Indian-leaning Afghanistan and increased instability in Afghanistan convinced many in the Pakistani military establishment that they needed to maintain the Afghan Taliban and Kashmiri groups to hedge their bets. This thinking continues today.”

The report gives few specifics on how it believes the Kashmir dispute can be resolved, other than to say that the United States should encourage the current peace process between India and Pakistan and “promote increased dialogue on Kashmir”.  

But to read it, you are left wondering whether the authors realise the extent to which they are overturning U.S. policy over the last eight years. Not only do they resurrect the link between India and Pakistan, but they also write of the need to broaden and deepen the United States’ strategic relationship with Pakistan just when India had got used to being the favoured strategic friend in the region.

They also argue that the United States should consult more closely with China on Pakistan — likely to touch a raw nerve in India which has long been sensitive about China’s close ties with Pakistan.  And they say that India’s much-prized nuclear deal “if not handled adroitly, has the potential to destabilise the nuclear balance in South Asia and further compound Pakistani fears of being overpowered by their neighbours”. 

Does this herald a radical rethink in U.S. policy that will thrust Kashmir back into centre-stage, while in some ways diminishing India (in Indian eyes) by stressing its relationship with Pakistan? Or will the “change you can believe in” founder on the reality of managing U.S. strategy in Asia — including not just tackling Afghanistan and Pakistan but also dealing with India and China?

(Reuters photos: File photo of the Taj Mahal; bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad)


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1. The report gives few specifics on how it believes the Kashmir dispute can be resolved.

2. Does this herald a radical rethink in U.S. policy that will thrust Kashmir back into centre-stage, while in some ways diminishing India (in Indian eyes) by stressing its relationship with Pakistan?

I just wanted to point out the inconsistency above.

They seem to recommend the Iran,Pakistan, India Pipeline worth $8BN. Just wondering which is now a priority for this group ” Kashmir or this Pipeline”. How will this playout with American audience of a Iran angle when you give a go ahead for this.

I do not know much about US foreign policy, just wondering will a commitee formed by Pro Pak members have a more say in US foreign policy or they will try to balance this report with another independant body which reasons why they moved in the past decade to build ties with India.

As a journalist do you really think a indian economy which will add $1 trillion in next 7 years will see no participation from US or China & allow countries like germany,france,UK, Korea to capitalize on their policy shift.

Why would Pak army consider this report considering their diminished utility & also a $20BN assets created for their officers, solving a kashmir issue means they can’t hoodwink their public anymore.

With the economic crisis in the US hurting their citizens so badly, do you think the committee recommendations even remotely will be accepted by their legislature.

I am sure you will give credit to people in subcontinent that people will see through these opportunistic manipulation easily.

We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise.

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive

“Pakistan in turn will never fully turn its back on Islamist militants as long as it believes it might need them to counter India.”

–The Author seems to support & symphatize the Terrorist activities…

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

Interesting report. The reporters are talking about Pakistan as if it is a problem for US to solve. They are morons.

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

There is only one solution to the Kashmir problem.
A large part of it is now under illegal occupation of Pukistan. The day India gets hold of that part, the Kasmir problem is solved. If any one, that includes even the American President, thinks there is a different solution, he/she is then the biggest fool & idiot on this earth. Period.

Posted by Srini | Report as abusive

Pakistan needs to abandon its islamic activities and become like secular progressive country India. India has more muslims than pakistans total population, with a progrssive outlook. US is better served if Pakistan becomes like Indias than the other way round. Kashmir is already doing better and will do much better intigrating with Indian economy in full than otherwise.

Posted by Two Cents | Report as abusive

To revert all the diligence done during the past 8 years will be futile for the US. I’m a little surprised though how the President-elect could be so naive. To suggest that the US should try to help resolve Kashmir is not only acceptable to India but also will throw India ever more closer to China and Russia which I believe is not in the best interest of the US.

India must not only be seen as a potential counter to China but also a fellow democracy which shares all the ideologies US believes in. Also in the next few years India is going to offer Billions of dollars of opportunity in the nuclear industry alone. Indian economy is roaring and unlike china it is not export driven but a consumer driven which means with burgeoning middle class equal to the entire population of the US is a huge market for American businesses. It’s easy to do the Math.

By the way to address the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue, Pakistan must control it’s out of control Military/Militias. Divert Billions of dollars it is spending on the military and feed its dying economy, develop its rural areas, and for God’s sake educate its people. An inflation of 25% is beyond my comprehension. Do not promote terrorism and it should not be afraid of India. Indians do not believe in imperialistic ambitions. India needs a stable neighborhood for it to flourish and to be able to compete with China.

So you know the answer to Afghanistan problem is for Pakistan to stop promoting terrorism, reining in ISI and work with India to accept the current LOC as the international border. Bottom line is that US needs India in Asia as does India needs the US to ascend to its rightful position on the world stage

Posted by Karteek | Report as abusive

Bravo Bravo!!

Barack Obama has understood the concerns of the PAKISTANIS & will be putting Hindustan on the operating table in a tough way. Hindustan must learn that if peace will have to be achieved in the subcontinent,then it must lay down its support for miscreants in Afghanistan,FATA,Balochistan & Karachi. Only then will peace be achievable!!

Posted by Qasim Awan | Report as abusive

Qasim Awan
Many an O’Bum’ass will come & go, many a Papistan will form & break – But Kashmir will remain an integral Indian state..

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive