Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
In the space of a decade, the United States and India have travelled far in a relationship clouded by the Cold War when they were on opposite sides.
From U.S sanctions on India for its nuclear tests in 1998 to a civilian nuclear energy deal that opens access to international nuclear technology and finance, while allowing New Delhi to retain its nuclear weapons programme is a stunning reversal of policy and one that decisively transforms ties.
America has also ‘soberly’ after decades of differing over counter-terrorism priorities become a vocal
supporter of India’s concerns over the use of Pakistani territory for Islamist militant groups, says the Asia
Society in a report laying out a blueprint for an expanded India-U.S. relationship ahead of
President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday.
Indian and U.S. interests have converged and “never in history have they been so closely aligned,” the report by an Asia Society Task Force says, arguing for a still deeper security and economic engagement between the two large democracies.
President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia. Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)
Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed:
As if the challenge facing President-elect Barack Obama of stabilising Afghanistan was not difficult enough, it may have just got much, much harder after the Mumbai attacks soured relations between India and Pakistan — undermining hopes of finding a regional solution to the Afghan war.
As discussed in an earlier post, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed a group outside India for the attacks which killed at least 121 people. The coordinated attacks bore the hallmarks of Pakistani-based Kashmiri militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India says was set up by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.
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 politico.com.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has assured Pakistani President Asif Al Zardari of his support for democracy in the frontline nation during a telephone call on Friday, Pakistan’s official state agency said.
Obama’s conversation was part of a round of phone calls he made to world leaders including Britain, Israel, Japan, Australia, France and Germany, mainly to thank them for their messages of congratulation following his victory.
In his new book about the Pakistan Army, “War, Coups and Terror”, Brian Cloughley recounts how the British general, the Duke of Wellington, responded to democracy in his first cabinet meeting as prime minister: ”An extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them.”
The story is told as part of an argument about why the Pakistan Army has never been particularly successful at running the country.
The war in Afghanistan-Pakistan is really the central front in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama kept saying throughout his campaign, and within hours of his famous victory, he seems to have been thrown a challenge.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said 40 people had been killed in a U.S. air strike in the southern province of Kandahar, most of whom were members of a wedding party, according to other officials. The Afghan leader, who is facing his own election next year, demanded that Obama stop the killings of civilians which this summer have mounted as overstretched U.S.-led coalition forces faced with a resurgent Taliban step up air strikes.
Barack Obama has hit a raw nerve in India by suggesting the United States should try to help resolve the Kashmir dispute so that Pakistan can focus on hunting down Islamist militants on its north-western frontier — who in turn threaten stability in Afghanistan — rather than worrying about tensions with India on its eastern border. India is extremely sensitive to any suggestion of outside interference in Kashmir, which it sees as a bilateral dispute, though Pakistan itself has long chafed against this position.
“The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan,” Obama said in an interview last week with MSNBC. “And we’ve got work with the newly elected government there in a coherent way that says, terrorism is now a threat to you. Extremism is a threat to you. We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.” (more…)
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain stressed important differences in approach to Pakistan in their first debate.
On the surface, Obama advocated a tougher line, as he has done since the start of his campaign. “If the United States has al Qaeda, (Osama) bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out,” he said. He talked about the $10 billion Washington had given to Pakistan in aid over the last seven years, saying it had failed to rid the border region of al Qaeda and the Taliban
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.