US-India declaration

THE hyphenated relationship is back, it appears. Pakistan-India, or India-Pakistan to much of the outside world, has at various points in history irritated one side or the other, the contention of Pakistan and India being that the other country’s issues and concerns were being given too much weight.

During the Af-Pak era, the hyphen was dropped by the US. Now that most of the US troops have gone from Afghanistan and the US-India strategic partnership is getting fresh attention, the hyphen appears to be back.

Take a look: US-India joint statement assails LeT

Following the India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj issued the Joint Declaration on Combating Terrorism. Its Pakistan-heavy emphasis will surely upset security establishment circles here.

Not only did Pakistan earn an explicit reference — “call for Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack” — but so did Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Haqqani network and the so-called D Company.

Over and on top of that, there is specific condemnation of the Gurdaspur and Udhampur militant attacks earlier in the summer — attacks that India blames on Pakistan-based militants.

Set aside emotions and there are really two aspects to consider here. First, for all the various claims made by both sides in recent years, the Pak-US relationship is essentially transactional in nature and, on key issues, there is a great deal of divergence.

Because national security here has been militarised, there continues to be a degree of security cooperation between the US and Pakistan. But there is little real understanding, sympathy or even interest in Pakistan in the US beyond the narrow security-based relationship.

The US may be one of Pakistan’s biggest trading partners and a significant percentage of Pakistan’s, admittedly paltry, foreign investment comes from there, but economically and politically the relationship is stagnant.

Worryingly, Pakistan has few friends in the US Congress, suggesting more episodes such as the recent withholding of a portion of CSF funds may be on the cards.

Second, this country and its leadership need to ask themselves a hard question: why does Pakistan continue to be such a hospitable place for extremist and militants elements that threaten the region and friendly countries further away?

There may be a right-wing government in India hostile to Pakistan, but the latter’s terrorism problem has much deeper roots. Zero tolerance for extremism and militancy is in Pakistan’s interest. Such a policy though has yet to manifest itself here.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2015

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