Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
India, Pakistan and even tiny Sri Lanka have all ignored U.S. concerns, and have hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the past two days. It is a fleeting visit with less than five hours scheduled in Delhi, but it seems like a carefully calibrated piece of diplomacy tiptoeing around the elephant in the room.
For, as relations go, India and Pakistan have become bound up with the United States in ways that would have been unthinkable not very long ago. Islamabad is a frontline ally in Washington’s war on al Qaeda and the Taliban, India a growing strategic partner with whom it is pushing a far-reaching civilian nuclear deal that gives it de facto recognition as a nuclear state.
So what’s this dance with Iran, accused by the United States of sponsoring terrorism and seeking to develop nuclear weapons ? Some of it is down to economics : Iran holds the key to India’s energy insecurity, as a piece in the Asia Times argues.
With oil prices skyrocketing, India’s thirst for cheaper imported gas has acquired a greater urgency than before and if this means jumpstarting the 15-year-old proposal to pipe gas from Iran through Pakistan, now estimated to cost $7.5 billion, so be it. Pakistan too needs the natural gas to meet its growing energy demand, as also the millions of dollars it will earn in transit fees.
And if history is any lesson, the “pipeline of peace” could promote security in the region with the costs of a conflict between India and Pakistan that much higher.