By Maria Amjad
US ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley in remarks at a news conference on Monday, 3rd April 2017, said that the United States is concerned about the current India-Pakistan impasse and would like to “find its place” in moves to ameliorate tensions between both the neighbors. The newly appointed US Security Council Chair said this in response to a question: “It’s absolutely right that this administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward”. She further added, “ I would expect that the administration is in going to be in talks and try and find its place to be a part of that and we don’t think we should wait till something happens. We very much think that we should be proactive in the way that we are seeing tensions rise and conflicts start to bubble up and so we want to see if we can be a part of that.” However, just a few hours after this press conference, India sent a strong signal to the United States that its suggestion wasn’t welcome. Although Haley appeared to be signaling a shift in American position when she emphasized the US President Donald Trump direct involvement in efforts to mitigate the India-Pakistan rift, but the New Delhi’s rebuff to the US offer has adumbrated the need to examine the Indian policy in solving the issue with Pakistan bilaterally.
The first reason of India not wanting the United States to meddle in India-Pakistan rift is India’s strong position of not being open to any third party intervention in the issue. It has stressed upon it in the past and has again reiterated its stance on Tuesday in a press release in response to Haley’s proposal where it enunciated that New Delhi’s stance on the importance of the bilateral redressal of all issues between the two countries has not changed. The Indian government believes that peace talks between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir, the Indus Water Treaty and the Line of Control (LoC) should be held in an environment free of terror and violence. However, India does expect the United States to enforce international mechanisms & mandates concerning terrorism emanating from Pakistan that continues to be the single biggest threat to peace in Subcontinent region and beyond.
Secondly, India wants the United States to stick to its Post-Cold War policy of not interfering in the Kashmir issue. Though the history indicates that the United States have kept on playing an affirmative role in Kashmir problem, but it has always respected the privacy and freedom of both the countries to solve the problem by themselves. That is precisely the reason that Barack Obama administration revoked from interfering in the Kashmir issue even after declaring that it will play an active role to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan. After this, former state department spokesman John Kirby formally announced that the issue of Kashmir is for the two nations to work out and the United States had no role to play in it. Kirby also elucidated that it is for India and Pakistan to determine the pace, scope, and character of talks on the Kashmir issue. Therefore, India now wants Trump’s administration to continue to follow the preceding government policies and India’s blatant response to Haley the other day was a clear indication of that.
Thirdly, India does not trust the US’ intentions because of its nebulous policy in South Asia region. Along with the United States, other major powers also backed India in the war of 1965 and betrayed it at the last moment. During the early 1960s, the United States has been openly and secretly providing military aids to India which it during the war. During the war of 1965, when Pakistani troops invaded Kashmir, India moved quickly to internationalize the regional dispute. It asked the UN to reprise its role in the First India-Pakistan War and end the current conflict. The Security Council passed Resolution 211 on September 20 calling for an end to the fighting and negotiations on the settlement of the Kashmir problem, and the United States supported the UN decision by cutting off arms supplies to both belligerents. Though the UN resolution and the halting of arms sales had a definitive impact on the conclusion of the war, but it did affect the India and Pakistan’s trust in the United States.
Moreover, in the war of 1971, the United States sympathized with Pakistan, because of various reasons. Among them two reasons were that: firstly, Pakistan belonged to American-led military Pact, CENTO, and SEATO; secondly, the United States believed that any victory of India will be considered as the expansion of Soviet influence in the parts gained by India with the victory, as it was believed to be a pro-Soviet nation, even though they were non-aligned. Andrew Small has also written in his book “The China-Pakistan, Axis” that, how Henry Kissinger, United States Secretary of State of that time, planned to move American ships in the vicinity, allowing Jordan, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to send American arms to Pakistan when it was on the brink of losing the war of 1971 against India. Because of this mistrust developed towards the United States, India has the inkling of being betrayed from the Leading super power again and because of this ersatz surety of its belief, it does not want the Unites States to take part in peace talks with Pakistan.
Furthermore, Indian envoys and policy experts believe that American improved relationship with India post-1990s has made possible the further exacerbation of the prickly relations between India and Pakistan. They believe that increased American exports of military technology have acted as a security threat to Pakistan, engendering it to accrete its military resources as well. This has resulted in the increase in military and nuclear arsenal competition between the two countries, leading to the further obfuscation of the tortuous bilateral relations.
Finally, The recent report card of the United States involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan shows a record of misunderstanding, hubris, and failure. Therefore, India would not want the United State to indulge itself in the India-Pakistan conundrum and to turn South Asia as its next battlefield. India has witnessed the Unites State involvement in Syrian Conflict where it has supported Syria’s main opposition alliance, the National Coalition, and provides limited military assistance to the “moderate” rebels. Also, since September 2014, the United States have been conducting air strikes on IS and other jihadist groups in Syria as part of an international coalition against the jihadist group. Furthermore, the United States had also started a program to train and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels to take the fight to IS on the ground. This, along with the India’s learning from four wars experience with Pakistan, has a comprehensive idea that how any conflict between Pakistan and India can escalate the involvement of the superpowers, nuclear-armed states and neighboring countries which might turn into a World War three. India also knows that both Pakistan and India have nuclear fusion weapons now and a slight misunderstanding between both the states can lead to a nuclear war, the results of which will be more devastating than the catastrophe caused by dropping the fission bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Therefore, India has a wary and chary diplomatic policy towards Pakistan and believes that it will be a facetious decision to involve the United States in India-Pakistan subtle relations.
Many critics have excoriated the India’s snub to the US offer, arguing that it will result in demurring the India-US burgeoning ties. However, critics have failed to realize that involving the United States will impair the current mushrooming relations between the two countries sorely as compared to the damage that a rebuff will cause. Prime Minster Modi has taken calibrated efforts at the highest political level to transform bilateral relations between India and the United States. Modi has been extremely careful while dealing with the United States as he believes that India’s developmental priorities cannot be met without substantive cooperation with the United States. Also, India constantly requires the support of the United States for the structural changes in India’s security environment brought about by an aggressive China and its growing strategic convergence with Pakistan via CPEC, leading to a re-think on ‘non-alignment’ as a guiding principle of foreign policy. Moreover, Modi has taken painstaking efforts to seek economic opportunities in deepening defense ties and technology cooperation with Washington. Modi had been proud to stand among the tech CEOs of Silicon Valley to announce the transformation of India into the “Digital India”. Moreover, India is proud to be the only country outside Washington’s formal treaty allies that will gain access to almost 99 per cent of latest U.S.’s defense technologies after being recognized as a ‘Major Defense Partner’. It certainly captures what is emerging as a unique relationship between India and United States and India does not want the banal India-Pakistan babbling to act as a hurdle in it.
Maria Amjad has graduated from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore, Pakistan, with a Political Science degree. Her interests include the history and politics of the South Asian region with a particular interest in India-Pakistan relations.