Can we afford to be friendly with a neighbour which is bent upon demonizing, defaming and down grading our country?

It buys arms – state of the art military weapons from all over the world – but raises hue and cry if Pakistan makes a bid for the purchase of air force planes or old frigates or a used submarine. It strikes an unprecedented deal with USA on the supply of nuclear reactors and assured supplies of related material which involves the violation of US laws and NPT provisions but cannot tolerate Pakistan getting two small nuclear reactors from China. It grabs Siachin and refuses to settle the dispute about it. It pledges to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir to ascertain the wishes of its people but reneges on it on flimsy excuses. It invades a part of Pakistan and breaks the country into two, holds tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians, prisoners in Indian jails. It builds dams on rivers flowing into Pakistan violating the Indus Basin Treaty and Pakistan has to resort to arbitration to get the design of the dam rectified.

Why am I highlighting Indian anti-Pakistan doings? The reason for recalling India’s unfriendly acts is the news that the first stop of the American president’s visit to India will be Mumbai. Not only is he being put up in the Taj hotel, he will be attending a ceremony to project to the world the 26/11attack on part of the city by terrorists having links with Pakistan. India thus would be reinforcing the impression that Pakistan is a country which keeps sponsoring international terrorism. If there is one fear which the world cannot take lightly, it is the threat of terrorism. There are also reports that India will deepen its plans to involve USA in developing a joint mechanism to counter terrorism and may enter into an agreement, during Obama’s visit – something which may have adverse repercussions for Pakistan.

What line of approach should Pakistan have in regard to Obama’s visit to India? While we will be well-advised not to overreact, there is no harm in expressing our concerns and demands.

We should make Kashmir an issue of importance for peace in this region. It makes sense to convey our anxiety about the brutal reign of state terrorism let loose by the government of India for the last two decades. Now that even India acknowledges that the protests in Kashmir are indigenous and more or less peaceful and no material support is provided by Pakistan, India needs to be told to seriously consider the question of finally settling this burning issue. The least Obama may do is to advise the Indians to stop perpetrating atrocities on the un-armed Kashmiri protesters. He may well take note of rising voices even in India for conceding Azadi to the Kashmiris. Here two points need to be made. One, president Obama is well-aware of the disputed nature of the Indian occupation of the state and the significance of the still very much valid UN resolutions. Two, it is very much in the interest of USA if relations between India and Pakistan improve and move towards normalcy. Americans want Pakistan to deploy more troops on its western borders to fight the Taliban. This could happen only if the Indian threat in the east, recedes. Obama understands the need for urgency in the matter. That is why during his election campaign he expressed a desire to appoint a special envoy for this purpose

The turn of events in Afghanistan has added to Pakistan’s value and weight for the success of US plans in this region. Americans want a respectable exit from Afghanistan. To achieve this, they have to come to terms, with give and take, with the Taliban. Pakistan’s role in strategizing talks with Taliban is crucial for a successful settlement of a future dispensation. Pakistan indeed holds a pivotal position in the region and can no longer remain hyphenated with Afghanistan. Indeed the key to the peace and stability of the region lies in the way India-Pakistan relations change for the better and this very much depends on the settlement of the unresolved disputes and issues hanging fire between the two countries.

In an interview with the Press Trust of India, president Barack Obama expressed his desire to raise the Indo-US cooperation to “a new level” and said that because of shared values and interests, he would support “India’s rise to a global power”. He described the relationship between the two countries as “an indispensable partnership” and added that “I see India as a cornerstone of America’s engagement in Asia”. In response to India’s demand to act against Pakistan he said that his government had told Islamabad that it had “a special responsibility” to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attack to justice, “transparently fully and urgently”. At the same time, he pointed out that “Pakistan is taking important steps and making sacrifices in our shared fight against extremism and we will continue to underscore the importance of taking additional action (emphasis added) to eliminate terrorist safe havens”.

Interesting to find how Obama responded to a reference about New Delhi’s expectations of his support for UNSC membership and transfer of dual use technology. He confined his response to the remark that these were “difficult and very complicated issues”.

Much food for thought in the mentioned statements of the US president on the eve of his visit to India. We need to carefully watch the visit and build our own strategy about our relationship with US, keeping in view the fall out of the new developments for Pakistan.

A good time to re-examine our concerns and interests and how these can be successfully addressed in the context of India’s strategic partnership with USA and the way the end game in Afghanistan plays out.

The writer is a political and international relations analyst.

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