America is on India's side against Pakistan terror

It's important from India's point of view that Obama administration makes an explicit course correction in its approach to India-Pakistan scene.

 |  5-minute read |   20-01-2015
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The visit of the US secretary of state – John Kerry – to India and Pakistan, draws attention once again to the state of relationship that is developing between the oldest and the largest democracies of the world in these testing times. This has come at a juncture when the closure of the decade – long “War on Terror”, leaves the US facing the undiminished challenge from the Islamic radicals and exposes India to a heightened threat of cross-border terrorism from a recalcitrant Pakistan. Taking a broad view of the Kerry mission, it can be said that the US secretary of state concentrated on economic collaboration in India and focused on the security cooperation in Pakistan.

He endorsed PM Narendra Modi’s call of “development of all” and appreciated the government for improving the climate for investment. In Pakistan, Kerry sought continued support of the regime there in the fight against Islamic radicals and reiterated the importance of Pakistan as a strategic partner for the US in the pursuit of security.


Kerry called upon Pakistan to combat all terrorist groups and for a change took the names of the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba in the same breath. This indicated a rethink of sorts in the American camp on terrorism considering that it was Kerry who had on his visit to Mumbai after 26/11 firmly defended the Pakistan Army against the charge of complicity in that unprecedented terror attack on India.

Kerry’s visit has led Pakistan to announce a ban on both Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Haqqani network. How is JuD’s founder – Hafiz Saeed – affected by this is not clear. Considering the events of the past, India can view this as another tactical move of the Pakistani establishment to appear responsive towards the US in return for the latter's support for Pakistan's predominance in Afghanistan.

What is important from India's point of view is that Obama administration makes an explicit course correction in its approach to India-Pakistan scene where Pakistan had been conducting a proxy war using cross-border terrorism as its instrument with the intention of forcing India to make a compromise on Kashmir.

Narendra Modi terminated the secretary-level talks with Pakistan because of the continued open flirtation of that country with the separatists in Kashmir – something the latter had become accustomed to under a weak dispensation of the past. India has now made it clear as a matter of policy that dialogue with Pakistan would not be held till it ceased to use terrorism to force its way on the issue of Kashmir. However, on the eve of the visit of John Kerry to Pakistan – the US state department aired an expression of hope that peace talks on Kashmir would be resumed.


These balancing acts of diplomacy by the US are understandable. The crux of the matter however is that India-US economic cooperation will acquire a solid foundation only if the US understands the security concerns of India and does not expect these to be subordinated to the American interests in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

India cannot be too sure that the US policy on India-Pakistan issues will not turn out to be more of the same considering the changing context in Afghanistan and the dependence of the Americans on Pakistan Army to safeguard their interest in the volatile Pakistan-Afghan belt. The irresponsible statement of Sartaj Aziz, the foreign policy advisor of Pakistan, alleging an Indian hand behind the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, is designed to get the US endorsement for a freehand for Pakistan in that country.

That the US can be extremely tactical about its foreign policy responses is likely to be exploited by Pakistan. Through several decades the US-led West allowed religion to be injected into geopolitics, to deal with its opponent during the Cold War. It was on the side of Muslim Brotherhood in Nasser’s Egypt and down the line it organised the anti-Soviet armed campaign on a religious war cry using both the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Maududi Jamaat – a derivative of Brotherhood – promoted by general Zia-ul-Haq in the name of Nizam-e-Mustafa.


This tactical pursuit would have served its mission if the termination of Cold War would have led the US to encourage return of some kind of democracy in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. This did not happen. Pakistan’s move to get hold of post-Soviet Afghanistan with the help of Taliban only helped to unleash the giant of Islamic radicalism that was always steeped in the anti-West historical memory of Wahabism. The rest is history. The US-Pakistan collaboration for short-term gains has multiplied the volume of faith-based militancy and created a global strategic challenge that the world is finding so difficult to handle.

It is still not too late for the US to revert to the two-fold strategy of neutralising the gun wielding terrorists of all hues on one hand and diverting all available resources towards restoration of democracy in those Muslim countries that were harbouring militancy, on the other.

It is extremely crucial for India that there is India-US convergence on the fight against this new terrorism. The US may have some comfort of distance but India is vulnerable to this phenomenon and has to do everything to keep the country insulated from the injurious exposure to whatever is happening around us. India hopes President Obama's visit would bring clarity to this matter that is of great import for India’s national security.


DC Pathak DC Pathak

Former Director, Intelligence Bureau.

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