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USA double standards, PM MODI TIME TO WAKE-UP!

Deva Sarran Samaroo. Pakistan has brilliantly succeeded in inserting the Kashmir issue into the agenda of its institutionalized annual Strategic Dialogue with the US. For the first time, Washington has allowed the Kashmir issue to figure in the joint statement with Pakistan after their annual meet. The implications are simply profound. The joint statement issued in Washington.

The United States and Pakistan emphasized the importance of meaningful dialogue in support of peaceful resolution of outstanding issues, including Kashmir. The delegations underscored that all parties in the region should continuously act with maximum restraint and work collaboratively toward reducing tensions.

Significantly, the passage occurs under the sub-heading ‘Regional Cooperation’ where the US “commended” Pakistan for its “constructive role” in the search for an Afghan settlement as also while taking “note of the steps taken to date, “ including the detention of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Maulana Masood Azhar” and appreciating “Prime Minister Sharif’s stated commitment to take prompt and decisive action on this investigation and to bring the perpetrators of the January 2, 2016 attack on the Pathankot air base to justice”.

It’s a double whammy for India insofar as Kashmir and Afghanistan have been mentioned as all but related issues of regional cooperation and, secondly, the US has signaled its satisfaction over the steps Pakistan has so far taken on the Pathankot terrorist strike.

The joint statement also has certain other worrying aspects to it. For a start, a new sub-heading has appeared for the first time in the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue process under the rubric ‘Fostering Strategic Stability’. It is a tacit recognition by the US of Pakistan’s second demand – aside bringing Kashmir issue into the US-Pakistan-India equation – namely, that it has deep concerns over the perceived US ‘tilt’ toward India upsetting the strategic balance in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region and undermining the regional stability.

In retrospect, Pakistan has swiftly built on the joint statement issued after the visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington last October (where Kashmir and ‘strategic stability’ figured) to elevate them to form the agenda of the institutionalized annual Strategic Dialogue forum. There is no way of looking at this other than that the US has gone the extra league to accommodate the Pakistani wishes against the backdrop of the rapidly changing regional security situation.

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Of course, by inserting itself into the Kashmir problem and making itself an arbiter of ‘strategic stability’ in the region, Washington also would aspire to leverage India’s policies. This is of course a classic style of American diplomacy in regions where adversarial settings prevail between countries – China and Japan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Israel and Egypt, etc.

Another significant aspect here is that the joint statement issued on Tuesday links US-Pakistan defence cooperation with ‘strategic stability’ in South Asia. It says,

Both sides noted the importance of US-Pakistan defense cooperation, which supports shared strategic objectives relating to counter terrorism and regional stability… Both sides underscored the importance of bilateral defense cooperation as serving their mutual interest and noted their willingness to explore new avenues to refine defense collaboration”.

All in all, the two-day Strategic Dialogue which concluded in Washington on Tuesday becomes a watershed event in Pakistan’s diplomacy with the US. The US has acceeded to the longstanding Pakistani demand – voiced consistently ever since the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s momentous visit to Islamabad in October 2001 – that as quid pro quo for Pakistan’s whole-hearted cooperation with regard to the Afghan problem, Washington should also be receptive toward Pakistan’s core issues and vital concerns regarding its adversarial relationship with India.

The two key templates of the Pakistani demand have been that the US should help find a solution to the Kashmir problem and, second, the US should not be party to helping India gain decisive strategic preponderance in the region that would lead to its hegemony over Pakistan.

Quite obviously, what has found reflected in the joint statement is the tip of the iceberg. It stands to reason that the Pakistani adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz and the US secretary of state John Kerry went over these issues in great detail. However, if we look back at the formulation in the Obama-Sharif joint statement of last October, here, we would have a fair idea that strategic stability depends on strategic balance and a resolution of “all outstanding disputes” (read Kashmir) between India and Pakistan. The excerpts are reproduced below:

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President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif recognized the shared interest in strategic stability in South Asia. The two leaders underscored that all sides should continuously act with maximum restraint and work jointly toward strengthening strategic stability in South Asia. They acknowledged the importance of regional balance and stability in South Asia and pursuing increased transparency and uninterrupted dialogue in support of peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes.

No doubt, Pakistan will watch carefully how the US’ regional policies evolve in the coming period. Is India ready for entering into a ‘meaningful dialogue’ with Pakistan with a view to finding a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue? Does India accept the US-Pakistani contention that they have a “shared interest in strategic stability in South Asia”? Will the US hyphenate the ties with Pakistan and India? These are questions that Pakistan will explore as it decides on the parameters of its own cooperation or coordination with the US on issues of regional politics.

It is highly improbable that the Modi government has any intentions to discuss the ‘K’ issue with anyone in Pakistan during its tenure in office. As regards “strategic stability in South Asia”, the mother of all ironies is that it has been the US which has been encouraging India through the recent decade to compare itself with China on any conceivable subject – and not to be obsessed with Pakistan.

Whereas, now, Washington expounds “strategic stability in South Asia” as its shared concern with Pakistan. What can one make out of it? Obviously, the US is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. It serves the US’ self-interests. So, we have US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter jetting down to New Delhi within a month of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, hoping to secure a few more multi-billion dollar arms deals.

On the other hand, even as the US-Pakistani confabulations were under way in Washington, a senior Pentagon official testified before the US Congress that the Narendra Modi government is coming round to agreeing to the longstanding US proposal to grant access to India’s military bases for the US military.

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Where lies the problem in Indian diplomacy? In a nutshell, in the prevailing political environment in India, the US is supremely confident that the foreign-policy bureaucracy rules the roost – with a prime minister who insists on being the driver of foreign policies despite being a novice to the subject and an external affairs minister who is a highly experienced political figure (and with an urbane mind) but so sadly marginalized. The Americans have realized that in Modi’s government they can count on a bureaucrat or two placed in key positions within our our establishment to push through their agenda while the politicians are busy with their shenanigans.

Therefore, in the ultimate analysis, all this becomes a learning curve for Prime Minister Modi himself. It is time to reflect without pride or prejudice over the trajectory of the US-Indian relationship under his stewardship. What has India gained and what has ‘Friend Barack’ gained? Importantly, should PM Modi allow himself to be blindfolded anymore by a bureaucrat or two regarding the US-Indian relationship?

The point is, a great power like the US works with a road map. Prime Ministers and bureaucrats on Raisina Hill may come and go but that road map has considerable staying power. The road map astutely guided the American policies toward India through the Manmohan Singh era, and will continue to do so even after Modi becomes part of India’s current history. Its core objective has been to dismantle India’s fixation over ‘strategic autonomy’ and its continuing fascination for non-alignment in an international setting that is hurtling toward a New Cold War.

Of course, what emerges ultimately is that the Pakistani diplomacy is successfully adjusting itself to the rapidly changing regional and international security scenario, whereas South Block remains bogged down in a single-point agenda, namely, how to create underpinnings of a quasi-alliance with the US.

Web title: USA double standards, PM MODI TIME TO WAKE-UP

Keywords: us pakistan india relations| india pakistan foreign policy| indian foreign policy today| Foreign policy of Narendra Modi|

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