Juxtaposing the interview with Wall Street Journal by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on September 27 where he called for a “new beginning” in ties with India with his remarks in London on October 19 calling for a robust intervention by the United States in the Kashmir problem, one doesn’t need much ingenuity to figure out that the Pakistani idiom has dramatically changed in a matter of three weeks.
Of course, the only “untoward incident” between the two statements has been Sharif’s meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York on September 29. This cannot be lost sight of — and we Indians should seriously introspect.
The main conclusion that can be drawn is that whatever high expectations Sharif would have had over his meeting with Manmohan Singh have been dashed. Suffice to say, Sharif who has strained every nerve to reach out to India is pulling back.
Sharif’s domestic compulsions are no doubt there, given his inability — so far, at least — to assert civilian supremacy in key areas of decision-making in foreign and security policies, but, equally, he would be justified in estimating that until a new government is formed in India, the sensible thing will be to trod the beaten path.
Put differently, Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] has met with stunning success in scripting the epilogue to the India-Pakistan “dialogue process”, which Manmohan Singh fancifully wanted to claim as the enduring legacy of his ten-year prime ministership. This is one thing.
Equally, if the WSJ interview appeared just before Sharif’s meeting with Manmohan Singh, Sharif made his remarks on Saturday in London en route to the United States on an official visit where he is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on October 23.
Just as India-Pakistan relations have chilled, Pakistan’s ties with the US have steadily regained their verve and there is strong motivation on both sides to add substance to the relationship. The Strategic Dialogue is being resumed, which enables full-specturm engagement at the civilian and military levels.
The weekend announcement in Washington regarding the resumption of massive American aid for Pakistan was intended to set the stage for Sharif’s arrival in Washington. The point is, there is going to be a paradigm shift in regional security.
The US hopes to wean Pakistan away from China and co-opt it as its regional partner. In order to make its rebalancing strategy in Asia effective, the US is establishing nine military bases in Afghanistan from where it would have the capabilities to monitor China (and Russia).
Pakistan becomes a crucial “transit hub” for the American bases. Pakistan’s full cooperation is an absolute prerequisite to ensure that al-Qaeda doesn’t flourish in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s stability is crucial for the US’ regional policies.
But in return, the generals in Rawalpindi would also expect reciprocal goodwill, understanding and “cooperation” from the US with regard to Pakistan’s vital interests and core concerns.
Suffice to say, Pakistan is accurately estimating that with the endgame under way in Afghanistan, the time is opportune to tap into the profound awareness within the Obama administration that unless Kashmir issue is resolved, there can be no enduring peace between India and Pakistan, and the prevailing state of play in regional politics will infinitely complicate the US’ rebalance in a highly strategic part of Asia. Unsuprisingly, Sharif’s official visit to the US has already got off to a flying start.
– October 21, 2013