اتوار، 7 نومبر، 2010
Obama’s visit: Indian economy
By Asif Haroon Raja
After the end of Cold War while Pakistan-US relations soured, Indo-US relations warmed up. The foundation of Indo-US strategic relations laid in 1990 prospered throughout the 1990s despite certain irritants such as nuclear non-proliferation, Russian origin missile technology and human rights violations. Huge investments were made to boost sagging economy of India . Software industry and agriculture sector in particular was given greater attention thereby enabling Indian economy to shrug off its sluggishness and become vibrant. Indo-US conjugation climaxed when Bill Clinton accompanied by extraordinarily large contingent of over 2000 businessmen and others visited India from 21-25 March 2000 and their relationship blossomed into solid strategic partnership.
Besides removing sanctions imposed in the wake of India ’s nuclear explosions in May 1998, and turning a blind eye to the existing irritants, India was cajoled, pampered and showered with heavy investments worth billions of dollars. An atmosphere of festivity and rejoicing pervaded the Indian horizon throughout the period of visitors stay. In contrast to high profile visit to India , Clinton ’s five-hour visit to Islamabad was a non-event. Ouster of democratic regime of Nawaz Sharif by Gen Musharraf had not gone down well in Washington . Accompanied by his personal staff and contingent of security goons, his attitude throughout his brief stay was curt and officious.
He preferred to meet President Rafiq Tarar and completely ignored Musharraf. He came with an empty bag and had nothing to offer to Pakistan except to lecture Pakistani nation. What he conveyed was that Pakistan should agree to return to civilian rule, rollback nuclear program, eliminate terrorism, accept Line of Control as permanent border in Kashmir , rein in fundamentalist elements and accept India as a regional power.
We also distinctly recall Bush’s visit to India in March 2006. Other than tens of defence and economic agreements worth billions of dollars, biggest trophy awarded was the lucrative civil nuclear deal. After this hi-fi visit, expectations in Pakistan were sky high. Reasons for such optimism were that Pakistan had acted as the frontline state and was playing a key role in US war on terror, had arrested and handed over more than 700 Al-Qaeda operatives to USA, and Musharraf had become the blue-eyed boy of Bush.
Barack Obama from whom better response was expected did not prove any better from his predecessor. Rather, he shifted the weight of war on terror entirely towards Afghanistan and Pakistan thorough his ill-conceived Af-Pak policy. He brought no change in US tilt towards India and continued to prepare it as a bulwark against China and to make it a key player in Afghan affairs. Pakistan bashing continued unabated and drone strikes were accelerated. Propaganda against Pakistan ’s nuclear program and its alleged linkage with Taliban and Al-Qaeda became malicious. He also ignored Pakistan ’s request for award of US nuclear technology on the plea that it had not proven itself to be a responsible state.
After Clinton and Bush, it is now Obama’s turn to visit India for three days from 6-8 November in order to further cement Indo-US strategic ties. Principally speaking Obama should have visited Afghanistan and Pakistan where war is raging and not India which is covertly fuelling flames of war. Since economics override politics and strategic considerations, India has been preferred. Other reason for not including Pakistan in his itinerary was the heightened bitterness between two archrivals, both carrying host of grouses against each other. Obama was faced with a dilemma since on one hand India is indispensable to US, on the other Pakistan ’s significance in context with endgame of Afghanistan could not be overlooked.
Obama was not in a position to offer goodies in equal proportion to both or to play one against the other. He also knew that presently anti-Americanism in Pakistan is on the peak and his own popularity is down because of high spate of drone strikes in Waziristan . Explosive situation in occupied Kashmir due to massive unarmed uprising and gross human rights violations by Indian security forces was another pressure point which he wanted to avoid. These considerations constrained Obama to take off Pakistan from his itinerary, but he hastened to compensate it by pledging to make an exclusive trip to Pakistan next year. Obama can ill-afford at this critical juncture to please India at the cost of Pakistan. Unlike his two predecessors who were in a stronger position, he will be cautious and will take extra care not to offend the sensibilities of Pakistan and risk losing its critical support. Obama’s visit to India will be outweighed by economic considerations. It will be more of a business oriented tour to promote US exports and less of politics.
(The writer is a defence, political analyst.)