Obama’s visit and Pakistan’s grumble

By K.N. Pandita

As US’ traditional ally, more so in a critical situation of war on terrorism, Pakistani foreign office has been giving vent to its discomfiture on exclusion of Pakistan from President Obama’s 10-day official visit to South and South East Asia.

He has made deviation from US’s traditional policy of maintaining parity between India and Pakistan, two nuclear countries of South Asia.  Pakistan foreign minister’s repeated persuasions with the White House to include Pakistan in the Presidents itinerary was turned down by the President desiring him to wait till next year.

Clinton in 2000 and Bush in 2006 did include Pakistan in their South Asian visits albeit for not more than a few hours. 

Ever since, Pakistan diplomatic circles were convinced that President Obama would not oblige them, there has been much disquiet among top foreign officials in Islamabad administration. But exclusion of Pakistan from the visit is not the only reason for their grumbling.

Having failed to prompt the President for the visit, Pakistani military and civil administration is vexed over the failure of the foreign office to upset the cart. Even the ISI, too, comes under mild censure.

Landing straight in Mumbai, and then the night halt at Hotel Taj have further incensed Pak officials who take it as an indirect snub by Washington. Obama met some of the kith of victims of 26/11 and promised to remain united with India in fighting the menace of terrorism. He may not have mentioned Pakistan by name as the source of Mumbai terror attack as was done by the British Premier Mr. Cameroon, nevertheless, one can read a good deal between the lines. A visit to Gandhiji’s residence is indirect appreciation of India’s demonstration of extraordinary restraint against severest provocation and commitment to non-violence.

Islamabad is apprehensive of Obama mounting pressure on her for speedy dispensation of criminal cases against the Pakistani nationals involved in Mumbai carnage. This apprehension has been reinforced by the US banning two prominent Pakistan-based terrorists organizations, namely Let and JM and involved persons by name. The real hurt in this case is that the LeT supreme Hafiz Saeed is the apple of Pakistani Army’s eye and has not to be dealt with in a way unacceptable to the men in olive green.

Yet one bitterer pill which Pakistan is unable to swallow easily is the warming up of two democracies to strategic partnership of which military collaboration, especially against terrorism, is a key component. Pakistan had been enjoying the monopoly of being the “most allied of allies” of the US, never having the iota of idea that a time might come when the two democracies would chart a new roadmap in Asia and the world.

Weeks before his departure for South and SE Asia, Obama government specifically asked Islamabad to divulge the details of her nascent nuclear deal with China in which a large reactor is to be built by the later at Cheshma. The US wants to ensure that Pakistan does not give a handle to China to make deeper inroads in the Asian region that would threaten balance of power.

Washington has noted that China is building new railway lines, laying pipelines and bridges and roads in Pakistan and strengthening the infrastructure of that country militarily. This poses a challenge to neighbour countries, India in particular, and the world powers with a stake in Central and South Asia. During his talks in New Delhi, Indian side is likely to raise this issue strongly.

Pakistan is also wary of President Obama indicating without ambiguity that his primary purpose of the on-going visit to the democratic countries in South and SE Asia is to boost America’s economy and create substantial job openings for the Americans. Accompanied by over 200 executives, a vast field of mutual trade and commerce will be explored and agreements inked. This is likely to make a sea-change in India’s growing economy with a vast potential of jumping to higher standards and quality of life.

Pakistan is mortified by the thought of India getting a seat in the UN Security Council. Though the US remains non-committal on the matter, yet indications are clear that policy planners in Washington cannot ignore India’s growing role in world economy and global strategy. Even the Republican leader Mr. McCain made a statement recently that the US cannot look sideways in the matter of India staking claim for a seat at the SC.

And finally, on Kashmir issue, first Pakistan tried to persuade Washington to somehow give expression to the so-called violation of human rights in the Indian part of Kashmir. Having failed to extract any statement to that effect, Pakistani diplomats tried to persuade the planners of presidential visit to India to give time to Kashmiri separatists and secessionists for a brief meeting with the President. Even the Amnesty International, an NGO known for its anti-India stance, issued an appeal to President Obama to take up the case of so-called violation of human rights in Kashmir. No positive response was visible from the White House.

The fact is that nobody knows better than President Obama that the people in Kashmir valley have been taken hostage by terrorists and religious extremists trained and sponsored by Pakistan.  Fighting separatists and secessionists is the most important chapter of American history, and Obama needs no briefing on that.

Pakistan’s chagrin is self-made. It has to realize that fomenting terrorism has cost it dearly, and more trouble is in offing. Status quo in traditional balance of power cannot be maintained. Just providing China opportunity and support to hit India under the belt is not that easy and without repercussions. A tripartite collaboration among the US, India and Pakistan would be highly effective if the region is to be cleansed of terrorism and the menace of terrorists. Pakistan has to do some re-thinking. The End.

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