Monday 20th of May 2024

U.S. and India Relations: Does the Pakistan Factor Still Matter
Vrinda Prabhat
Region : SouthAsia, /America, India, Pakistan,
Issue : Security, Terrorism,
India sees the U.S. as a major player in the pursuit of its national interests, be it security, economic, strategic or scientific, the U.S., on its part sees the rise of India is in its own interest. Even as the two countries disagree on certain issues, the important thing is that there is nothing adversarial about it, either in the bilateral or multilateral context.

Modi’s bet on a more intensive strategic partnership with America has been reinforced by a revised and more ambitious framework for defence cooperation that the two leaders approved in January last year. They also identified a number of weapons projects for co-development and co- production.

Equally important is the determination of the two leaders to expand bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism and homeland security. Of particular interest was their emphasis on “joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company and the Haqqani Network”. Modi’s India is no longer whining about Pakistan to America; instead it is seeking to strengthen its internal capacities to counter terrorism in partnership with the United States.

Pakistan’s singular foreign policy objective is parity with India. But with neither the size nor the capital, Pakistan has recognized that it needs American assistance. Therefore, for much of its history, Pakistan has relied on American military and economic aid to maintain a military disproportionate to its size. That same military has maintained a grip on Pakistani politics, either directly under a dictatorship or indirectly through rigging elections, coercing governments, and intimidation. personnel. Instead of investing in its own infrastructure and social services, or even its neighbors, like India has, Pakistan has put more of an emphasis on its defense. For instance, it doubled its defense spending over the last five years — spending almost 30 percent of the state’s budget and greatly contributing to a budget deficit — in what Sharif has categorized as a “waste [of] massive resources in an arms race” with India.

The previous carrot-and-stick US policy against the middle powers is no more valid in the context of Pakistan. There is now a different geostrategic picture that gives Pakistan other options to counter such pressures. It enjoys extremely close strategic ties with China and is developing relations with Russia that has created political and economic space and injected a sense of confidence in policymakers. There is a belated appreciation among US policymakers that Pakistan has a strategic importance in its own right and maintaining close relations with it is in the US interest. Moreover, the region’s geostrategic significance has enhanced considerably as a consequence of China’s deep involvement in the region. The multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is likely to alter the region’s potential and dynamics and the US does not want the vacuum to be filled entirely by China.

Having said that, Washington retains the ability to influence events and harm countries that go against its wishes.

Historically, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has served the two countries’ critical interests, but not without a cost to each. The trade-off was acceptable until America’s post-9/11 re-engagement with Pakistan became entangled with a grinding, unpopular war that created problems, contrary interests and distrust on both sides. The relationship came to rest on the narrowest of common interests and public support. Since Prime Minister Sharif’s first visit to Washington in October 2013, there has been a slow but positive reversal in relations. And now, with the second visit of General Sharif in October 2015 there are hopes in Pakistan for a renewed US approach.

Comparatively, during the last visit of Prime Minister Modi to the U.S in in October 2014, there was a pledge to push the bilateral relationship to "new levels", resolve issues blocking implementation of the civil nuclear deal and cooperate in counter terrorism. The US President, in fact , stated that he was impressed with Prime Minister Modi’s interest in not only addressing the needs of the poor in India and revitalizing the economy there but his determination to make sure that India is serving as a major power that can help bring about peace and security for the entire world.
The subsequent trip of President Obama to India during the Republic day celebrations (first time ever attended by the U.S. President) reiterated the intention of friendship on both sides. Ties between the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy are now on the upswing.The US has raised its concern regarding Pakistan’s development of short-range missiles that it justifies as a riposte to the Cold Start doctrine. Although the military establishment has tried to assure the US that its nuclear assets are safe and secure, the US continues to raise the issue, being fearful of the general security situation in the region.
Meanwhile during the recent Climate Change Summit in Paris Prime Minister Modi said 'India will fulfil its responsibilities regarding climate change' as he met US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a UN summit in Paris. 'India would work closely with the US on “Mission Innovation”,' that was launched by US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande ahead of the Conference of Parties (CoP-21) climate summit that got underway.

Given Pakistan' s muddled development and contradictory politics , the country has a number of issues it needs to address before the United States can or will take notice. Therefore the Pakistan factor in India - US relations is not so relevant now as compared to the past. India in 2015 is very different from what it was in the 1960s, 1970, or the 1980’s. Since the economic reforms, New Delhi’s international profile has changed dramatically, and every major country wants to impress India with an eye on its huge market.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2015.
By Sunil Adam
4. by C RajaMohan
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Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FORE INDIA.

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