By Sitwat Waqar Bokhari
Continued from Part 1 – Click here
On December 08, 2016, US secretary of Defence Ashton Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar announced India’s designation as a “major defense partner” of the United States in a joint India-US statement issued at the end of Carter’s visit to New Delhi, the seventh visit since Modi took office in May 2014. According to the joint statement issued, recognizing India as US’s “major defence partner” “is a status unique to India” which will term the US-India defence relationship as a possible “anchor of stability”. India signed a key civil nuclear deal with the US in 2008 which gave it some access to nuclear materials and technology. The two are expected to sign future agreements such as the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), and the Logistics Supply Agreement (LSA) which seek to meet US-India mutual interests in the Asia-Pacific region and, particularly, according to Forbes Magazine writer Charles Tiefer, would help India “stand up to the emerging superpower of China”.
The two also signed Indo-U.S. Framework for Maritime Security Cooperation in 2006 and the U.S.-India Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative (CCI) in July 2010, both of which allowed the two countries’ navies to increase exchanges on maritime security and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. As of January 2016, the two agreed on a US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. Such agreements, hence, underscore the pre-positioning of the US in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific with the full cooperation of India against the emerging power of China. In return, the United States has been asking members of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) to support India’s entry into the group. “We believe, and this has been U.S. policy for some time, that India is ready for the membership and the United States calls on participating governments to support India’s application at the plenary session of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG),” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in June 2016.
Moreover, in August 2016, in his Independence speech, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi attempted to incite the people of Baluchistan to turn against the Government of Pakistan by calling the country a supporter of terrorism in a veiled reference. It is an open secret that India has been seeking to destabilize Pakistan, especially by hitting at its ethnic and religious fault lines by being an invisible hand behind the insurgency that takes place on the Pakistani soil. An astonishing speech by India’s national security advisor to students at SASTRA University in November 2014 unveiled India’s actual offensive-defensive posture towards Pakistan which involved India’s plot to create instability in the country via insurgency, particularly its Baluchistan province and using fourth generation warfare to ultimately divide it.
Hence, by forming a troika with the United States and the Afghan Government; both of which have their own reasons, India is attempting to create a two-front situation for Pakistan while seeking to weaken the economic and naval progress of China towards the Arabian Sea by importing instability into Pakistan’s restive regions. However, at the same time, India is also creating a two-front situation for itself by lobbying against China and Pakistan, hence keeping the strategic stability under stress between the three nuclear powers.
On the other hand, the US-Pakistan relations are barely warm where the former has been demanding the latter to release and hand over the jailed doctor, Shakil Afridi, who is believed to have assisted the CIA in hunting down al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. He is hailed as a hero by US officials while Pakistan accused the doctor of running a fake vaccination campaign in which he collected DNA samples to help the US intelligence agency confirm Bin Laden’s identity. In addition, Pakistan is continuously branded as a sponsor of terrorism by the trio of India, Afghan Government and the United States. In September 2016, two United States lawmakers moved a bill in Congress seeking the designation of Pakistan as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’, also terming Pakistan as an “untrustworthy ally.” While the bill did not get passed, soon India undertook a diplomatic campaign leaning on Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan to boycott the Pakistan-hosted SAARC summit due to be held in November 2016 in an attempt to isolate Pakistan.
Two leading US think tanks advised the Trump administration to review its policies towards Pakistan to effectively contain and eventually eliminate the terrorist threats that continue to emanate from the country. “Designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, as some U.S. congressional members have advised, is unwise in the first year of a new administration, but should be kept as an option for the longer term. Indeed the administration should state up front that it intends to review the intelligence on Pakistani involvement in supporting terror much more critically than its predecessors”, the report added.
The growing US-India partnership and the increasing criticism and pressure on China’s co-partner in the CPEC, Pakistan, does reveal the striking differences in the relations of the US with the two neighboring countries. The recent spate of terrorism in Pakistan that killed over 100 people over a span of five days, too, was traced to terrorist groups having ties with militants in Afghanistan. India has significant influence over Afghanistan particularly NDS. Pakistani security officials argue that it is quite possible for Delhi to have exploited Afghanistan’s grudge against Pakistan over the continued presence of the Taliban and Haqqani Network on its soil. Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria has also noted that Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan is “well known.” In fact, former Indian Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh, in a recent interview, said, “Unless we punish Pakistan through kinetic/non-kinetic, overt/covert means, it would not budge. All elements of national power have to be used so that the Pakistan Army is compelled to look inwards. This can happen through asymmetric means. It is part of the strategy.”
Importing instability in Pakistan is part of the India’s strategy to destabilize all economic and military gains of its nuclear neighbor. Curtailing China economically is both the joint objective of India and the US. The US already checkmated Russia in Afghanistan and now, with the eager support of India, has pre-positioned itself in the Indian Ocean on the one hand and placed its deployments in the Eastern Europe to counter Russia on the other. In China and Russia’s access to warm waters and China’s shorter alternative outreach to the African and Middle Eastern regions, Baluchistan is the key. Whether the province will have peace or be enveloped in militancy and chaos will either imprison or liberate Russia and China. Hence why the US and India’s endeavors have recently been to isolate Pakistan internationally, roll-back its nuclear program, jeopardize the CPEC, and in India’s case particularly, import militancy in its restive regions.
According to the NSA, four years ago, where Pakistan’s flags used to be burnt by the people of Baluchistan, but now the national flag is being hoisted by the same natives. The Government of Pakistan has put in considerable efforts to improve the conditions of the province while, with the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the province seems to have a bright future. If Pakistan utilizes the potential of Baluchistan and Gwadar, it can become a game changer in the power politics of this region and the developments around CPEC have already shown a figment of this dream. An important step in this direction is achieving reconciliation and stabilization in Afghanistan and, thus, preventing a two-front situation for Pakistan. With a stable Afghanistan, the province can become an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); a new economic block of connectivity to the landlocked region of China, Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Such a development would provide a valuable platform for not only the economic integration, productivity and prosperity of the region but also form a common basis uniting all stakeholders to work towards regional peace and stability.
The author Sitwat Waqar Bokhari is a programme consultant and research fellow at the Center for Research and Security Studies.