Emerging Threat from US-India Nexus
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

The US may claim that it has de-linked its relationship with India from that with Pakistan, but ironically, its policies relating to India now impact Pakistan's security concerns as never before and US government representatives continue to identify common security issues for Pakistan and India. In the context of the former, much has already been written in this column earlier on the direct security threat that the US-India nuclear deal poses to Pakistan, which will provide safeguarded US nuclear fuel for India's civil reactors and thereby liberate a large quantity of un-safeguarded Indian fissile material from these reactors. This can now be diverted to weapons production, allowing India to stockpile a vast nuclear arsenal.
In the context of the US constantly linking Pakistan and India in terms of regional security policies, we have now seen General Peter Pace, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit to New Delhi, urging Pakistan and India to work together to fight the Taliban. What was General Pace implying, given that India shares no border with Afghanistan and the highly questionable presence of Indian forces in Afghanistan is already a source of a security threat for Pakistan? Does he actually seek a more enlarged Indian military presence in Afghanistan? If so, is he truly unaware of the security dilemma and threat that would pose to Pakistan?
He also indulged Indian commanders as they apparently briefed him on New Delhi's concerns regarding Pakistan's Afghan policy. Now why should Pakistan's Afghan policy be a source of concern for India? Do we voice our concerns, of which there are many, to the US regarding India's Nepal policy, especially in the historical context of India's territorial expansion in the neighborhood? And are we to actually believe General Pace's naiveté when he remarked that the Indians brought to his attention "that the Taliban has sanctuaries in Pakistan"? Or was he actually using the Indians to voice his own accusations? Interestingly, while he declared that "Pakistan's President Musharraf is fighting hard to clear those territories" (that is, the so-called sanctuaries), the Pakistan army and state's efforts in this fight against terrorism were totally ignored.
This has been a common trait in US statements regarding Pakistan's massive contribution to the war against terror in the region. The state's role is barely mentioned and an attempt is always made to de-link the president from the state -- which seems to be an effort to undermine the state of Pakistan by insinuating that the state may not be fully supportive of the president's anti-terrorist commitment. This does no service either to Pakistan, which continues to sacrifice its own citizens in the fight against terrorism, or to the president in terms of his relationship to the state and society.
Clearly what we are seeing is a heightened arrogance on the part of the US with scant regard for the sensitivities of its allies. This is especially true in the context of Pakistan, whose nationals are often referred to as "Paks" in public remarks by US officials, including retired generals. Because we choose to be too accepting of all that is dished out to us, I suppose we are naturally prime targets of the prevailing American arrogance. But this arrogance is far more widespread. The US has only recently declared that the driver of the US truck that rammed into civilian traffic in Kabul, killing and injuring a number of Afghans, cannot be prosecuted in Afghanistan because of an agreement between the US and the Afghan government. So effectively US forces can act with impunity in Afghanistan.
Not that the US is concerned particularly with international norms and laws presently -- especially in terms of its soldiers and the treatment they mete out to their prisoners. According to a Los Angeles Times report of June 5, new policies on prisoners being drawn up by the Pentagon will leave out a key provision of the Geneva Convention that specifically bans "humiliating and degrading treatment". Given the level of abuse that prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay are already being subjected to, this action will only give a covert face to what is already a reality. For those in Pakistan, this arrogance becomes a direct issue of concern because one is increasingly seeing it being reflected in the Indian leadership's statements towards Pakistan and their approach to the bilateral dialogue -- especially the issues of conflict that show no sign of moving towards resolution. While the Indians have been exceptionally clever in creating a myth about their willingness to dialogue on all issues with Pakistan, while focusing primarily on atmospherics and trade, the reality of India's inability and unwillingness to dialogue on the conflictual issues in a substantive manner occasionally surfaces in bizarre ways that belie claims of the growing civil society interaction at all levels between Pakistanis and Indians.
A recent example of this was the issue of participation by Pakistani students from elite schools in a seminar/workshop on Kashmir in Pune, India. The project was part of the Initiative for Peace undertaken by the United World College, Hong Kong, over the last few years. This year the focus was on Kashmir and, as usual, Pakistan's elite schools chose their students who worked hard on learning about the Kashmir issue and dutifully sent their passports to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. Close to the time of the planned departure, and after a period of almost three weeks, the Indian High Commission informed the students that their visa forms had been misplaced. Despite hastily re-filling these forms and despite a supposed intervention on the part of the High Commissioner himself, the students could not make it to Pune so the meeting on Kashmir went ahead without the main Pakistani participation.
Now what were Indian fears regarding Kashmir? Would they have been put in an awkward position if the Pakistanis had reiterated President Musharraf's proactive proposals on Kashmir and asked why there had been no Indian response? Or were they expecting embarrassment on their human rights abuses for almost over two decades in occupied Kashmir? Whatever the case, India's hard line approach towards political issues, and the rigidity of its Kashmir policy, do get exposed occasionally. And we should learn from these brief revelations of India's real intent on bilateral conflicts and its arrogant efforts to shift the focus to atmospherics and platitudes even as it seeks to undermine Pakistan at multiple levels internationally -- be it in misrepresentations to third parties or in efforts to seek intervention indirectly within Pakistan's internal dynamics under cover of the war on terror. It is in this context that Pakistan needs to be wary of the emerging US-India strategic nexus, both in terms of form and content.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)

 

 


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