India Locks into US Agenda
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

The intimacy of the Indo-US strategic partnership was shown up most clearly at the IAEA, with India casting a vote in favor of the EU 3-sponsored and US-backed resolution on Iran. This resolution effectively opens the way for taking the Iranian case to the UN Security Council. Interestingly, till this vote, India had been in the forefront of decrying US attempts to take the Iranian nuclear case to the Security Council -- and there is in existence a formal nuclear cooperation agreement between India and Iran also. But US legislators had made it clear that the principle of “either you are with us or against us” still held and India should fall in line behind the US on the Iran nuclear issue if it wanted to see its own nuclear deal with the US go through Congress. So, undoubtedly, in its national interest, India did a complete somersault at the IAEA. A much less powerful Pakistan managed to hold its ground and abstained, but then we do not have anything as lucrative as the Indo-US nuclear and defense agreements at stake!
Whatever the compulsions now on India, clearly it is going to be difficult for India to go through with the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project. The US has already made its opposition to this known to both Pakistan and India. However, again, for Pakistan there is little to be gained by going along with the US on this issue. For India, the case is entirely different since it is now the strategic partner of the US in this region and will therefore be implementing the US strategic agenda -- which one assumes is in sync with the new Indian global ambitions.
For those who still hope India will adopt its own strategic policies and not go along with the US agendas in this region, the IAEA vote should set them straight about Indian intent. What Pakistan must do is to ensure that if India backs out of the pipeline project, it is not able to find a face saving escape route, especially in terms of the security pretext. As for Pakistan, we have too much to lose not only economically, but also strategically if we do not go along with this project.
Meanwhile, the Indo-US strategic relationship continues to be operationalised at the military level. The latest reflection of this is the joint naval exercises that commenced on Sunday, September 25 in the Northern Arabian Sea. Termed the Malabar-05 exercise, this is the biggest nine-day long joint naval exercise between the two strategic partners. Apart from aircraft carriers and early warning aircraft the exercise will include submarines also. According to Rear Admiral DK Joshi, the Assistant Chief of the Indian Naval Staff, the exercise will involve simulated air strikes, air defense and other tactical operations. The idea is to focus on counter-terrorism operations as well as “anti-sea piracy and to streamline interoperability.”
While the US military holds joint exercises with many of its allies, the nature of the exercises and the terrain where they take place is significant in the case of India. After all, these naval exercises send a message to the countries along the Gulf and Indian Ocean signaling Indian interests that now seem to be reaching out into the Indian Ocean from the Red Sea to the Malacca Straits. And there is already an Indo-US agreement for the joint patrolling of this area, which controls the energy flows to South and East Asia. Iran needs to take note of this because it signals a new Indian approach to Iran - as a US military partner. For Pakistan also, there is a veiled threat in this and if one links this up with the Indian covert actions coming across from its consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar in Afghanistan as well as from Zahidan in Iran, one can understand a little better the problems relating to Balochistan and especially Gwadar -- notwithstanding the local politico-economic factors that provide fertile opportunities in the first place.
Equally important is the fact that India is also a partner of the US in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). This is one of the many “coalitions of the willing” whereby the US and its allies have anointed to themselves the right to contravene the Law of the Sea and halt ships on the high seas on the merest hint of suspicion that they may be carrying some components of WMD or other threatening cargo. They have also given themselves a similar right for international airspace. Now we all know what destruction a mere hint of suspicion can result in -- as happened in Iraq.
Nor is it just Indo-US naval exercises that have a special strategic significance. There have been Indo-US military exercises in Occupied Kashmir also which certainly confronts Pakistan with a threat multiplier and obviously China was also being sent a strong message. So Indo-US exercises go beyond the traditional exercises that the US holds with countries like Pakistan --- where the intent normally is to see the preparedness of the latter in certain threat situations as well as to ascertain the war doctrines.
Coming in the wake of the IAEA’s Iran resolution, the Malabar-05 exercises have an added symbolic importance for Iran and Pakistan -- as well as China. The message emanating from India is clear: That it will go along with US strategic goals in this region, be it targeting the Iranian nuclear program or containing China. For Pakistan, the US has made it clear that the Indo-US military and nuclear alliance is at a different strategic level from the tactical cooperation with Pakistan on the counter-terrorism war.
Equally important, we need to factor in this strategic partnership when examining the Indian demand for access to the land route into Afghanistan and beyond. It is not merely an economic issue anymore but a politico-military one in terms of giving India and the US military space -- both overt and covert in that region through our land route. What will be the long-term costs for us in what could become an encirclement of Pakistan by India on the Western and Eastern borders as well as in the Arabian Sea? How will we reconcile our military cooperation with the US in the face of the ongoing strategic military relationship between the US and India? Will what we share militarily with the US, be shared by the US with India -- either deliberately or inadvertently? And how will our national interest in evolving a long-term understanding with our critical neighbor Iran be compromised by the Indo-US partnership and our relationship with the US?
At the very least, our strategic milieu has become more complex and our threat calculations have to factor in the long-term implications of the Indo-US defense and nuclear agreements and their strategic partnership. The US may have de-hyphenated its India relationship from its relationship with Pakistan, but for Pakistan this has only aggravated the impact of the US-India cooperation in terms of security parameters. Now we cannot de-hyphenate our relationship with the US from our relationship with India.
(The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy News)


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