30 September 2016

US strengthens military ties with Pakistan

September 28, 2016

'Here in Delhi, the Modi government is supposedly looking at 'options' to hit back at Pakistan in any whichever way it can, while in Washington, the Obama administration is looking for ways to strengthen US military cooperation with Pakistan,' says Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

The meeting of the United States-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group, which was held in Rawalpindi on September 21, carries profound symbolism.

Although the attack on the Indian Army camp, which India insists was Pakistan-sponsored, took place only on September 18, and ignoring the Indian elite's threat of 'jaw for tooth' et al, Washington nonetheless decided to go ahead with the meeting.

So much for the India-US 'defining partnership'!

So much for Pentagon chief Ashton Carter being a 'Friend of India'!

So much for the US-India logistics agreement, too!

Yet, the government continues with its grovelling at the American feet.

The Indian Express newspaper reports today that Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar is frogmarching Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet to post-haste approve the Paris Agreement, overruling the scepticism of the environment ministry and a host of sister ministries.

He (Jaishankar) is also learnt to have quoted the special unilateral relation between India and the US, and argued that since the pact had been steered by the US, not ratifying it would send a wrong signal, especially when Barack Obama had just two months to go as US president.

Isn't it bizarre that when our government is preparing a nice farewell gift for Obama as he leaves the White House, and when Modi has vowed to 'isolate' Pakistan in the international community and hope to get sanctions imposed on that country, for the Pentagon it is business as usual with the GHQ in Rawalpindi?

Washington couldn't care less that 18 Indian soldiers were slaughtered and the pain still lingers.

The Pakistan delegation to the meeting in Rawalpindi last Tuesday was led by Defence Secretary Lieutenant General Zamir-ul Hassan Shah (retd), while the US delegation was led by a ranking Pentagon official, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defence Policy Ambassador David B Shear.

The joint statement issued after the meeting said the US and Pakistan 'recognised the centrality of the US-Pakistan bilateral security partnership to their overall bilateral relationship and acknowledged that continued cooperation remains vital to promoting peace, security and stability in the region and beyond.'

The statement highlighted the two countries' 'commitments to a strong defence relationship in years ahead, geared to achieve common strategic objectives particularly related to counter-terrorism, regional stability and other areas of security cooperation.'

There were discussions regarding both countries' 'strategic priorities,' Pakistan’s ongoing counter-terrorism operations, maritime security in the North Arabian Sea and Horn of Africa, 'political and security situation in Afghanistan', Afghan reconciliation, 'operative coordination' between the two militaries, Pak-Afghan cooperation in border management, etc.

The overall sense one gets is that the US highly values the mil-to-mil cooperation with Pakistan and the special flavour of the relations has far from dissipated.

Second, the joint statement underscores that US continues to ascribe centrality to Pakistan's role in the stabilization of Afghanistan.

The Pentagon's eagerness to bond with the GHQ in Rawalpindi highlights how heavily Washington depends on Pakistan's cooperation to sustain its open-ended military presence in Afghanistan -- over 30,000 trained American personnel, Special Forces, a full-fledged intelligence apparatus, China and Iran, drone aircraft for surveillance on Iran, air power, plus, of course, NATO forces.

Significantly, the joint statement contains a pointed formulation to the effect that the US and Pakistan 'underscored that no country's territory should be used to destabilise other countries.'

Indeed, this is all incredibly ludicrous. Here in Delhi, the Modi government is supposedly looking at 'options' to hit back at Pakistan in any whichever way it can, while in Washington, the Obama administration is looking for ways to strengthen US military cooperation with Pakistan.

The illusion in the public opinion is that Modi 'transformed' the US-Indian relationship is fast evaporating.

What was all that banga banga on Madison Square Garden all about?

Clearly, the US stance on the recent tensions in India-Pakistan relations and on the situation in Kashmir has not at all been helpful.

Consider the US-Pakistani exchanges in these 10 days alone since the Uri attack on September 18:

On September 19, US Secretary of State John Kerry met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif;

On September 21, the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group met in Rawalpindi;

On September 23, the White House 'welcomed' the peace deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (who lives in Pakistan).

Pakistan is accordingly toughening its stance toward India. Its advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz told the national assembly in Islamabad on Tuesday, September 27, that if India so much as decides to revoke the Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan will treat it as an act of war. It's a snub to Modi himself.

Again, Aziz added that Pakistan is preparing a dossier on India's alleged interference in Baluchistan. 'We will expose India at the United Nations Security Council and before the international community,' Aziz said.

Aziz would have factored in that US takes a dim view of Modi's foray into Baluchistan.

Wake up, Modiji! Obama simply did his job for promoting his country's exports (civilian and military) to the Indian market, and we paid for those purchases in hard-earned money. He doesn't expect a farewell gift from us!

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