• Saleem Qamar Butt

Budding USA-India Nexus vis-à-vis Pakistan’s Choices



The Vietnam War required us to emphasise the national interest rather than abstract principles. What President Nixon and I tried to do was unnatural. And that is why we didn't make it. ~ Henry Kissinger

The advocates of budding USA-India nexus may have to conclude the same as was done by Kissinger sooner than later as India has exposed its internal fault lines on a much sharper curve both in time and space by undertaking genocide of Muslims in Kashmir and in other parts of India, abrogation of article 370 and 35 A of its constitution depriving Kashmir its special status initiating forced annexation of Jammu, valley of Kashmir and Ladakh, introduction of Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) targeting Muslims in India and implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) giving country wide strong protests by all minorities that is bound to implode India one day as a result of unbridled far right and ultra nationalist agenda of Modi’s ideological cradle RSS and political party BJP. Despite similarities with Trump’s Islamophobia and anti-Muslim and anti-immigration policies, PM Modi is prone to be a political disaster for India as Indian Congress party can’t match the American Republican Party, wise American congress or institutions to keep in place equilibrium in its internal and external policies and constitutional check on POTUS.

As president Trump is touring India today with Indian PM Modi doing everything to camouflage unsavoury face of India and to support him, Indian diaspora, staffers and ambassadors in American stream, footprints in global print and electronic media are standing upside down to project high hopes with Trump’s visit to India. Interestingly, just recently saving his skin from impeachment and strict scrutiny by US Congress, Trump himself is in a great hurry to deliver on all unfulfilled promises during this election year; however, a big bang is not expected though both Modi and Trump may try to achieve political mileage more than the real stuff in the glare of Bollywood style fiction world. For over last two decades, as a result of well sustained ingress of Indian American in the policy circles of America, Washington has had high hopes for India on the global stage mainly to take care of rising China and resurgent Russia that paradoxically had been Indian longstanding closest partner. Almost 20 years ago, acting on such expectations, Washington began resolving the disagreements that had held USA-Indian relations back through the Cold War and into the 1990s. During George W. Bush’s presidency, U.S. officials gave up their long-standing insistence that India relinquish its nuclear weapons, allowing Washington and New Delhi to sign a landmark nuclear accord and opening the way to significant American investments i.e. diplomatic, economic, and military to facilitate India’s gradual rise. Successive U.S. administrations provided laissez-faire access to military technologies and promoted India’s role in Asia Pacific region to contest and contain China. Modi’s courtship of Trump was part of a considered strategy to keep the United States committed to India. Whereas many other world leaders reacted to Trump’s election in 2016 with bafflement and disgust, the Indian prime minister sought to charm and disarm his impulsive American counterpart. In public, Modi lavished attention on Trump and wrapped him in trademark bear hugs. In private, he patiently parried Trump’s demands on everything from Afghanistan to India’s peace process with Pakistan to bilateral trade with the United States. In so doing, Modi signalled that the United States was of vital importance to India and sought to persuade Trump that even an asymmetrical U.S.-Indian partnership could be mutually beneficial. And Trump seems to have bought it. Since taking office, Trump has authorised the release of several advanced U.S. weapons systems, including Predator drones and the Aegis integrated air and missile defense system, both of which India would have struggled to procure from a U.S. administration more fearful of provoking Pakistan or irritating China. The Trump administration has also granted India the same special trade status that NATO allies enjoy when it comes to licensing requirements for high-end defense-technology sales. However, Indian mask of non-alignment and greatest democracy has been flown away by gross political and human rights violations all over Indian and particularly in Indian occupied Kashmir; and above all by impersonating American and Israeli discriminatory and cruel anti Muslim and anti minorities policies. It is also to be noted that Trump’s slogan of make America great again and Modi’s slogan of Made in India is having enough seed of economic clash and mismatch, hence least likely to fulfill both countries’ financial dreams. Therefore, it is hard to believe that in long run India can remain American best hope in the region. More than anything else, the future of the U.S.-Indian defence relationship hinges on India’s ability to maintain prosperity, stability, and social cohesion at home. An India that is distracted by internal strife, domestic cleavages, and corrosive ideological confrontations will be unable to either grow rapidly or modernise its military fast enough to project power beyond the Indian subcontinent. On this score, the recent record of Modi’s government has been hopeless.

On the other hand, one needs to remember what Trump had said some time back, “I want American troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, but then we have nuclear Pakistan. And we need India to take care of that”. Former American Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is on record having said that India used Afghanistan’s soil to launch proxies inside Pakistan especially in Balochistan. So those who believed that Modi in his second term would be in a better position to politically resolve lingering Kashmir issue with Pakistan are already red faced; and again those who attach similar hopes of negotiated settlement through Trump’s efforts need to remember the farcical Palestinian-Israeli peace plan to avoid another big shame. So expecting Trump to have a positive say on Kashmir issue is least likely; besides, India may throw in yet another spin on Afghanistan for greater intelligence and even military role in Afghanistan without public attention. It may also be underscored that when a third tier American bureaucrat with due help from embedded Trojan Horses can pull off desired results on American goals in the region by Pakistan through diplomatic, military, economic and political coercion, why would an American president or even a Secretary of State visit Pakistan for meaningful strategic dialogue. Breathing spaces off and on given or taken away through World Bank, IMF, FATF and stopping of military and economic assistance to force Pakistan to comply with most discriminatory conditions are too well known to be written here.

Despite delivery on Afghanistan peace process, Pakistan has been still kept in the Grey list of FATF and like always the dynamic list of USA demands is likely to keep Pakistan on the doorstep delivery mode with cheap tip. It is time that our political and military leadership defines for the county a self respecting diversified foreign policy with clearly defined rules of business, goals and strategic objective based on principle of reciprocity. Pakistan’s strategic realignment with China with success of CPEC is a great leverage in which Pakistan and China must meaningfully and institutionally involve Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, CARs, Malaysia and Middle East countries, which may pave the way for sturdy regional economic and military alliances.

24thFeb 2020

· Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a retired senior Army officer with rich experience in International relations, diplomacy and analysis of geo-strategic issues. (Website: www.sqbutt.com )

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