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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Page 1 of 2 South Asia descends into terror's vortex By M K Bhadrakumar

Mullen probably hoped to rattle Delhi by confirming what many American "experts" have been recently suggesting, namely, the US is working on a "regional strategy" in South Asia, which grouped Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together. He virtually corroborated a recent hint by US Senator John Kerry (who is expected to chair the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations) that Obama would be appointing a special envoy for South Asia in an unprecedented move.

Delhi finds such ideas completely unacceptable. Delhi traditionally rejected any outside "third-party" mediation in India-Pakistan disputes. Having said that, successive governments in Delhi tacitly acquiesced with a US mediatory role in India-Pakistan relations in the recent years since the Kargil conflict in 1999. To be sure, Delhi's pragmatism was based on the belief that it wouldn't be a bad idea if the US used its influence on Pakistan to moderate its policies on the range of issues generating India-Pakistan tensions - Pakistani support for cross-border militancy and terrorism, in particular. In other words, Delhi preferred to selectively avail of the US mediatory role in areas where it stood to gain.

But an institutionalized US mediatory mission in South Asia hyphenating Afghanistan, Pakistan and India is an altogether different proposition...


Significantly, amid all the fracas over the Mumbai attacks and despite repeated Indian calls to isolate Pakistan in the world community as the "epicenter" of terrorism, Washington is quietly putting together a new multi-billion dollar aid package for Pakistan, and CENTCOM is drawing up a new five-year plan committing $300 million assistance annually to the Pakistani military.

Kerry, while on a recent visit to Islamabad, made the commitment to speed up the "mid-life upgradation" of Pakistan's F-16 aircraft capable for delivering nuclear weapons. He said the US considered a "vibrant, strong, economically viable" Pakistan to be "vital for peace and stability in South Asia".

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Islamabad has weathered the US "pressure" over the Mumbai attacks. In Islamabad's estimation, the focus in Washington is turning to the gala inaugural ceremony of Obama on January 20, followed by several weeks during which no major US foreign policy initiatives need to be expected as the new administration settles in. Thus, Islamabad has shrewdly judged that sooner, rather than later, the international community will begin counseling Delhi to engage Pakistan in a spirit of dialogue. ...


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