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Obama’s tight rope diplomacy in India – Pak Observer

US President Barack Obama had to tread the diplomatic tightrope during his visit to India in dealing with a complex political situation obtaining in south asia in the context of vital stakeholders like Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. He has tried to maintain an uneasy balance between its political and economic interests as well as military objectives in his speeches and media interactions in Mumbai and New Delhi. He opted to stay at Taj Hotel, a November 2008 target of terrorist attack, but refrained from mentioning Pakistan in his statements whom India persistently blames for the assault. While he propped up India for future international role by endorsing her ambition for a permanent slot on the UN Security Council, he reminded its leadership that with growing power comes increased responsibility. He counseled India to be a good neighbor and to bolster peace efforts with Pakistan leading to the resolution of the major irritant in the region. Throughout his three-day visit, Obama sought to balance the assiduous courting of New Delhi, which corresponds to long-term US strategic goals viz-a-viz China, with the need not to overly antagonize Islamabad. The US is heavily dependent on Pakistan for its continued support for the Afghan war.e Indian and US officials also announced several major military contracts, including the largest every Indian armaments order from the US, an agreement to purchase 10 C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft. Washington is seemingly determined to wrest large military contracts from India, to boost its major aeronautics firms and other US arms manufacturers and also to make India’s military dependent on US supplies and technology. Frankly, there is neither anything for Pakistan to rejoice nor to feel dismayed over the US President’s visit to India. It was more a ‘business’ trip than of political overtones. But beggars can’t be choosers. There is, in fact, a hell of difference between Pakistani and Indian positions relating to the United States. While Washington is aspiring to fetch about hundred billion dollars worth of sales agreements with India besides seeking its contribution to create employment opportunities in the US, Pakistan is at the receiving end. Islamabad has always been looking towards US for financial assistance since Ayub era. True that Pakistan has served the US interests during cold war, Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and US invasion of the landlocked country, but it has never been treated with sovereign equality. Pakistan is the one country that has rendered more human and material sacrifices as a result the US misadventure in Afghanistan than any other country in the world incljuding the US and NATO, yet it has to face the do more mantra every now and then. Obama has also not missed the occasion of his Indian visit to say that Pakistan is not doing as per his country’s expectations.

Time has come for us to re-evaluate our foreign policy. To regain our self respect and sovereign equality, it’s pertinent to gradually dispense with our US centric foreign policy and look for other options, which are amply available. But as the saying goes that foreign policy is the extension of domestic situation, our rulers will have to mend the home front. With political polarization, public antagonism due to unprecedented price hike, unabated corruption, lack of justice, sagging economy and nepotism reigning supreme in the society, Pakistan can not expect to be at par with other nations. It’s a pity that the government is unmindful of the public outcry over the mounting cost of living. It wakes up only after the multifarious mafias achieve their desired ends and succeed in raising the prices of essential commodities. Prime Minister Gilani has woken up to the sugar crisis only after the prices have shot up to over hundred rupees per kilogram. This can hardly be appropriate to seek a dignified foreign policy. It’s, therefore, high time that the government should translate its profession of trade not aid into reality. Let there be no more begging.

Pakistan has rightly objected to Obama’s shift in the US policy by openly endorsing the Indian bid for the UN Security Council seat. A Foreign Office statement has warned that the attempt to make India a permanent member would add ‘complexity to the process’ of reforming the Security Council and urged the US not to follow the ‘exigencies of power politics.’ The statement pointed to ‘India’s conduct in relations with its neighbors and its continued flagrant violations of Security Council resolutions’ on Kashmir as reasons that India should be denied greater power at the UN. It will simply be a mockery of the UN principles and international morality, if a country like India that has a track record of hostilities towards its neighbours including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal is made a member of the world body. Washington must have sought India to resolve its disputes with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries before endorsing its bid for the slot. Obama’s support for India’s bid for permanent UN Security Council membership is also being seen as a step calculated to aggravate China, against which the Obama administration has adopted an increasingly provocative stance over the past year. This is a calculated move apparently to tumble the rapidly improving economic ties between China and India. Their relations are, however, strained by a border dispute, India’s fears of China’s close relations with Pakistan, Beijing’s expanding influence throughout South Asia and Beijing’s concerns that New Delhi is being drawn into a US-led Asian-Pacific military-strategic bloc. Washington is anxious to harness India to its drive to contain and, if need be, counter a rising China. With this end in view, it has aggressively courted New Delhi for the past decade, including spearheading a successful campaign to lift a three decade-old international embargo on civilian nuclear trade with India.

There is obviously nothing new in Obama’s rhetoric that ‘terrorist safe havens’ are unacceptable. He and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has even made harsher statements on the issue in the past. This is understandably part of the pressure tactic to make Pakistan act militarily against Haqqani network in North Waziristan. It’s also seemingly meant to balance his refusal to condemn Pakistan for the terrorist attacks on Mumbai and occupied Kashmi as well his advice to India to be a good neighbor and pursue a peace dialogue with Pakistan for resolution of the contentious issues. India too was not entirely satisfied with Obama’s remarks about Pak-India situation as was evident from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh interjection at their joint interaction with media. To justify his country’s refusal to resume the composite peace dialogue with Pakistan that was suspended after the 2008 Mumbai attack, accusing Pakistan of continuing to practice ‘terror-induced coercion’, he said ‘You cannot simultaneously be talking and at the same time the terror machine is as active as before.’

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