Waiting For Uncle Sam

Will then Obama administration help defuse the tension across the LoC

The relations between India-Pakistan are on the rocks. It is not hyperbole; the two countries are on a collision course.  The year 2013- perhaps for unlucky thirteen in it did not augur well for the two countries. Having largely plugged muzzles of their guns for nearly a decade the year started at a very bad note with the two countries entering into yet another phase of war of attrition.  The escalation began on January 6, with Pakistan blaming India of violating the ceasefire agreement crossing over the LOC, killing one soldier and wounding another.   These incidents not only generated a lot of jingoism in media on Indian side but also caused intermittent artillery shelling across the Line of Actual Control. The situation reached to another boil when on August 6, five Indian soldiers were killed by “Pakistan in the Poonch Sector in an ambush”. Pakistan disavowed the attack. Nevertheless, since then killings of soldiers and civilians across the LoC has almost become a regular feature – and everyday dawns with threat of an escalation of tension and complete breakdown of the decade old truce.  On Sunday, Pakistan ordered complete shutdown of government offices, schools and imposed restriction on civilians within three Kilometers of the LoC – this sounds alarming.

Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, who during his just contested elections, that brought him to gubernatorial position had made peace with India as his theme song has been holding a white flag aloft. Notwithstanding, the worrisome situation along the ceasefire line, he has been talking peace with New Delhi.  On Friday, Islamabad ordered the release of 364 Indian Prisoners and their repatriation to their country within twenty-four hours. In an interview with Telegraph London, while pleading  for ending arms race and reducing defence expenditure after mutual consultation he very subtly suggested  entering into a no-war pact with India. Ostensibly,    Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh    are on the same page for resumption of dialogue. The question arises then why there is a roar in New Delhi for no-talks with Islamabad and some “intellectuals” becoming signatory to a petition opposing meeting between the two Prime Ministers on the sidelines of upcoming UN General Assembly session. It would be too naïve to attribute the ‘no-talks’ hype to the forthcoming Parliament elections. The BJP or its partners in the NDA government after having run the country for full term and having had the thrill of what they call ‘chute-the-chute’ of India Pakistan relations understand that dialogue is the only way forward for ensuring peace in the region.         .

Some Pakistan Columnists and journalists occasionally engaged in “track-two” sojourns like ‘India-Pakistan Chaophraya Dialogue’ and often-visiting New Delhi writing for some Karachi and Islamabad based newspapers have been wrongfully dragging in Kashmir in the present India-Pakistan  LoC crisis. Hoarsely crying over existential threat to Pakistan, they have been suggesting to the Nawaz Sharif government to climb down even from the Musharraf’s formula on Kashmir- who knows it may be their booby-trap for him. True, the dispute over the future of Jammu and Kashmir has been the obstacle in the relations between the two countries but roots for the present crisis have more to do with the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and stakes of the two countries in future government in Kabul. Fears have been looming large amongst Pakistani elite that ‘expanded Indian influence over primarily non-Pashtun government in Kabul could latter lead to increasing hostility towards Islamabad.’  Pakistan elite, other than the Kashmir basher journalists believe, ‘Indian presence in Afghanistan will remain major sticking point in the Pakistan US bilateral relations even after 2014.’ 

 Studies about post US withdrawal have engaged the attention of scholars and strategists in number of countries. In December 2012,   study carried out by Barcelona Centre for International Affairs with the support of Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs   not only brought into focus stakes involved in Afghanistan of various countries but how these are going to interplay and effect the security in the region. Many earlier studies had seen role of Asian Powers in Kashmir. In the study conducted by Barcelona Institute, of all the countries, India and Pakistan emerge as two major players in the region who will be struggling for safeguarding their interests. Highlighting India’s interests in Afghanistan that will be in conflict with those of the Pakistan the study says these would include: 

   ‘Countering increased Pakistani influence over events in Afghanistan, engaging with the nationalist insurgency in Baluchistan and across the border in Afghanistan, regarded by some observers as a counterbalance to Pakistani ISI pro-Taliban support, Obtaining access to raw materials in Afghanistan to meet the needs of India’s grow¬ing population, ending the reported use of the Lashkar e Tayyeba as a proxy by the Pakistani ISI to act against India  gaining the upper hand in Indo-China rivalry, which spills over into Pakistan, the Kashmir issue, in dispute with Pakistan (unresolved since 1947).’

As pages of calendar started filliping, the clash of interest between New Delhi and Islamabad in Afghanistan will sharpen and these could reach to dangerous point that can imperil peace in the region. It transpires from the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s telephonic conversation with Nawaz Sharif that US is worried about the ongoing tension and LoC flare-up. It fears that accentuation in hostilities would have a direct bearing on smooth withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Notwithstanding Jawaharlal Nehru’s commitment to non-alignment historically, Washington right from 1947 has been working as third party mediator between India and Pakistan in defusing the tension. In 1962,  in the words of Alistair Lamb, ‘the clash of arms between China and India provided Pakistan an admirable opportunity to force Kashmir settlement’. The United States prevailed upon Pakistan not to go for war with India. After 1962, we see on umpteen occasions Washington working as third party in defusing tension between the two countries- in the recent history during the Kargil war it was Clinton administration that prevented a nuclear holocaust, US played important role in ending the 2001-2002 military standoff. It seems the two countries are waiting for the Obama administration to defuse tension across the LoC