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Good will dialogue before political dialogue

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By K.N. Pandita

As India announced cancellation of the proposed foreign ministers’ sit together on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, Pakistani media has gone berserk in bringing accusations against India that she is not interested in contributing to peace process in the region. The Pakistani media hype is meant to convince the world community and perhaps the US as well, that India is the source of disquiet in the region.

Who does Islamabad want to convince by such wishful claptrap, Washington, London, Moscow or Beijing? Who has been calling Pakistan the epicentre of global terrorism? Where was the master-mind of contemporary terrorism discovered and killed by the American marines? Where are the premier terrorist organizations designated not only by the US but also by the UN, based? Which country has sought shelter behind the dubious identities called “non-state actors” and which country runs tens of thousands of religious seminaries throughout its length and breadth to prepare them for joining the ranks of jihadis who want the free world’s order to be replaced by antiquated radical conservatism and sharia order and the world turned into an Islamic Caliphate?

Hindsight will show that in near and distant past free and democratic India took many initiatives for bringing about rapprochement between the two neighbouring South Asian countries, India and Pakistan. How did Pakistan respond to late Atal Bihari’s initiative of bus trip to Islamabad or Modi’s unscheduled visit to the then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif? We know that Islamabad’s India policy is framed by GHQ and not by any other authority.

From day one of his government, PM Modi made Indo-Pak peace talks subject to Pakistan calling a halt to clandestine infiltration of armed and trained jihadis from Pakistani border in J&K to the India side of Kashmir. However, Pakistan claimed that she was fighting terrorism in Waziristan but extending political, moral and moral support to “Kashmir freedom movement.” Islamabad rulers often claimed they were avenging the hostility of India of Bangladesh era. The revanchist mindset never left Pakistan and the rulers there never even tried to make some introspection particularly after the Humudur Rahman historic report, the like of which is seldom fond in the annals of human history.

Notwithstanding what has been said above, Prime Minister Modi believing that a change of government in Islamabad might also mean Pakistan’s readiness to be pragmatic in chalking out its India policy afresh agreed that the his foreign minister may meet with her Pakistani counterpart to talk and not to discuss on the sidelines of General Assembly session in New York.

Pakistan failed to comprehend the spirit of this gesture and the pre-requisites necessary to maintain an environment conducive to the beginning of a new attempt. If Pakistan was sincere in its intention of promoting peace, it was of utmost importance that she should not do anything on the ground to scuttle the chance for resumption of bilateral dialogue. Pakistan allowed its terrorist outfits and the jihadis to continue their perfidy in Kashmir. Further, it angered New Delhi by issuing a stamp in the name of a rank terrorist who was in close liaison with the LeT chief.

Pakistan is under the misconception that it can bring India to talking table through a show of muscle power. We do not know who prepared Pakistan for this nativity? Why India withdrew from the proposed foreign ministers unscheduled meet in NY is lucidly explained by her External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj in her address to the informal meeting of the SAARC ministers on the sidelines of the GA session in NY. She made it clear that peace meant negation of war. But entire peace spectrum stands vitiated by one member-country of SAARC. How can there be peace when war is waged by proxy and those proxy warmongers are labelled as non-state actors only to escape the blame of fomenting and fuelling crisis in the region. Sushma lamented that the huge potential for development in SAARC region is wasted by one particular country which has allowed its soil to become the hotbed of jihadi terrorists.

The jihadi outfits sponsored, recruited, trained and indoctrinated by ISI have the patent assignment of disrupting peace and normal life in the region by unleashing proxy war in India and Afghanistan, which together make the largest part of the SAARC geographical region.

India had boycotted the SAARC summit that was scheduled to meet in Pakistani last year and Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan had joined India in the walkout. SAARC has made no progress worth the name. How can it make any progress with the government of one member country allowing the land to be used by terrorist organizations for launching global terrorism?

Many among the opposition in Pakistan National Assembly have questioned Prime Minister Imran Khan sending an undiplomatic letter to Modi and suggesting renewed efforts for normalising relations. In the same way many critics at home have not approved Modi’s more than necessary overture in this regard. Perhaps some invisible hand somewhere has been moving behind the curtain to prompt both sides for resumption of dialogue. If that is the case, the initiative should have been left to the lower ministerial rungs. Perhaps both sides have overdone their job.

While Pakistani foreign minister is knocking at various doors in the US in a bid to seek moratorium on Trump’s aid cancellation spectacle, Prime Minister Imran Khan made a sudden jaunt to Riyadh despite his election promise of not going on a foreign tour for first three months in office. This may be the fourth or fifth time for Saudi monarchy to bail out Pakistan from financial crunch. At the same time Shah Mahmood Qureshi once again carried his beggar’s scrip to the doorsteps of IMF Notwithstanding Imran Khan’s penchant for US-bashing psychosis, Washington is not going to stop its effort of chalking out a working formula with Imran Khan’s regime of bringing about substantial change in Afghan political scenario. India, including Kashmir, undoubtedly figures in their narrative. .All that one would say is that a goodwill dialogue between the arch rivals should precede political dialogue.

Convergence of the strongest and the largest

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By K.N. Pandita

The US high power delegation led by the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and including the US Army Chief, has just concluded its visit to India. The two countries are moving towards closer cooperation in their efforts for regional and global peace and development. The US lately recognizes that the strongest and the largest democracy in the world should have convergence on approach to many regional and global problems with terrorism at the top of them all.

Strategic importance of relationship between the US and India lies primarily in their political arrangement of democratic governance. While the US is the strongest democracy in the world India is the largest. Both are multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-religious and multi-cultural societies. Together they send a message to the entire world that they are living examples of unity in diversity, something which other countries with diversified social structures can emulate and adapt voluntarily. In a world torn by contradictions and controversies democratic dispensation is the time tested module of accommodating different shades of opinion and approach. Protection and preservation of democracy against the forces of exclusiveness becomes a priority with the two countries.

Security and trade are crucial to development. Both countries have stakes in the security of the region which is catalyst to free flow of trade. Three-fourth of oil requirement of the world passes through the Arabian Gulf and equal size of international trade has to flow through the Straits of Malacca. This speaks loudly for the need of security of the Gulf and India-Pacific regions. Good relations between India and the US are a key to the imperative of security and trade with development as the final destination.

The United States was favourably disposed towards the leadership of Indian freedom movement against colonial power. However, during the cold war era the US’ found its interests served better by patronizing Pakistan. India pandered to the Soviet bloc. Nevertheless, the US did not fail to understand that despite many odds, India was wedded to democratic governance. Therefore relations never reached a freezing point which reflected maturity of statesmanship on either side. This understanding was reflected in the US offering huge quantity of wheat to India to overcome her grave food shortage during 1950s. The PL- 480 programme is a significant landmark in the history of bilateral relations. India improved its agriculture sector as a result of collaboration with the advanced agricultural expertise of the US. This was part of PL – 480 and later on it became catalyst to what Indians call “Green Revolution” or self-sufficiency in food production.

A marked change appeared in India’s policy towards the US after the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991. Heads of the two governments exchanged friendly visits. India found vast scope for collaboration in many areas of development like strategic security, trade and commerce, science and technology, energy resources etc. But the most significant area was that of civil nuclear cooperation. The civil nuclear initiative has been strengthened by the regular meetings of the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Working Group (CNWG).

Cooperation between two major democracies purports prosperity of people in both countries and the world at large. Modi government’s objective of cooperation with the US is multi-dimensional but regional security and free and fair trade concept is at the centre of this cooperation. At present, the trade side of the U.S.-India partnership is vastly underperforming. Two-way trade in goods and services is about $115 billion. This pales out in comparison with two-way trade between the United States and China, which at about $650 billion is almost six times as large. Modi believes that raising bilateral trade to match the size of Sino-US trade is the key to the success of his doctrine of “Make India”. Here lies the importance of a “free and fair” trade agreement between the two sides that would serve their common interests. A fair and free trade agreement when signed could go a long way in strengthening bilateral relations. However, for the time being the process of finalizing such an agreement remains in suspended animation owing to unjustifiable tariff regulations on either side. Once they clinch an agreement, India could take care of other areas like energy, defense production, anti-terror and the growing influence of China in the region on its own.

Mechanisms like defense and anti-terrorism cooperation; strategic consultation, mutual investment programmers, space civil science cooperation, energy development projection etc. are the instruments that will enhance trade and economic prospect of both countries.

Trump administration’s India policy is a component of US’ South Asia policy overarched by Indo-Pacific strategy. Initially Trump’s strong stand on H-1B, EB-5 visa and immigration caused disquiet to New Delhi. His predecessors were liberal on these matters. Trump’s accusation that India was seeking billions of dollars from advanced countries in exchange for its support for the Paris Climate Change Agreement caused serious concerns in New Delhi. However, Prime Minister Mode’s US visit to the US helped normalize the situation.

Trump-Putin understanding bodes well for New Delhi. It can stop Russia from falling into the embrace of Xi Jinping. It allows India greater room in proposing important projects like the International North-South Trade Corridor.

President Trump’s deviation from the lukewarm policy of the Bush and Obama administration in dealing with terrorism and extremism gives satisfaction to India which is a victim of terrorism. During his visit to India, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had hoped that India would take her rightful place at the global table meaning the Security Council… The two sides have also focused on strengthening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and respecting freedom of navigation, over-flight and commerce. It is a matter of great relief for India. Revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the US, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia last year indicates expanded bilateral engagement between New Delhi and Washington.

However, accusing India of raising tariff on US imports is the latest irritant in Indo-US relationship. Their representatives are scheduled to meet soon to find a solution to the issue.

In his South Asia policy statement in 2017, President Trump said India was crucial to America’s interests in peace and stability in Asia-Pacific region. Previous administrations in Washington did not seriously think so. Trump administration also recognizes India’s role in stabilizing Afghan peace and economy. In Trump administration’s “Defense, Technology and Trade Initiatives” India occupies a prominent place as the world’s largest democracy and fast developing economy conducive to strengthening of peace in Asian region and the world. Calling ties with India as of utmost importance, US Defense Secretary Mattis said, “Washington would pursue a long term partnership with India to stabilize Asia-Pacific region.”

Trump has not minced words in declaring US’ determination of fighting terrorism to let humanity live in peace. He has made a resolve to take on these enemies of peace with the cooperation of democratic countries in the region. Indian Prime Minister Modi has been emphasizing on world powers to understand the seriousness of terrorist and extremist threat to peace. This shows convergence of policy of fighting the menace of terrorism.

Trump administration will support India’s membership in the Security Council as well as in NSG. The US supports Quad – 4 viz. Japan, Australia, South Korea and India… Thus Trump administration recognizes the strategic importance of India to peace and security of the Indian Ocean.

However, among the irritants in their relationship are the trade imbalance and Trumps’ decision to do away with EB-5. In both cases prospective Indian investors will be affected adversely. However, the two sides will be talking to resolve differences.

Asia-Pacific idea, dating back to 1960s was related to Cold War strategy of the US in the East. The proposition that future world history would be actually the history of Asia made the American think-tanks focus on broad East Asian cooperation in Asian politics and economic growth… However, China’s rapid economic growth enabled her go militarily strong enough to intimidate the South China Sea states and make naval forays into the Indian Ocean. This posed threat to the vital world maritime trade route passing through the Straits of Malacca… The concept of Indo-Pacific was thus born to meet military and commercial challenges in the Pacific region.

The concept was first expressed by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his address to the Indian Parliament in 2006. In 2010 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about “expanding our work with the Indian Navy in the Pacific because we understand how important Indo-Pacific basin is to global trade and commerce.” The rationale for re-cycling the nomenclature is that the region now boasts the world’s three largest economies, seven of its eight fastest growing markets, and seven of the world’s ten largest armies and it is expected to produce more than half of the world’s economic output in the coming years. The reason why the US prefers Indo-Pacific instead of Asia-Pacific is that it acknowledges the historical reality and the current-day reality that South Asia, and in particular India, plays a key role in the Pacific and in East and Southeast Asia. Secondly, it is in the interests of the region, that India plays an increasingly weighty role in the region. India is a nation that is invested in a free and open order. It is a democracy. It is a nation that can bookend and anchor the free and open order in the Indo-Pacific region, and it’s America’s policy to ensure that India does play that role, does become over time a more influential player in the region.

The US-Pakistan relations at crossroads

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By K.N. Pandita

A fracas over a telephonic message from the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to Imran Khan on 23 August only added to the already strained relations between the US and its former South Asian ally. Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi contradicted the content of the call. The State Department had said in readout that during the call “Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan”. Islamabad refuted the US readout as incorrect, saying that this “issue of terrorism” was not discussed. However, when questioned by a reporter, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said there would be no correction in response to Pakistan’s complaint. “I can only say we stand by our readout,” Continue Reading…