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India’s Cozy US Ties Irk Pakistan

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the US Congress members, before his address to the Joint Session, at Capitol Hill, in Washington DC, USA

While Modi is the fifth Indian prime minister to address the US lawmakers, Pakistan can boast only of Ayub Khan in 1961 and Benazir Bhutto in 1988 – despite Pakistan being an ally, part of the US-led military alliances and a Cold War supporter of America that had also helped it forge ties with China….writes Manzoor Ahmed

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the US Congress members, before his address to the Joint Session, at Capitol Hill, in Washington DC, USA
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the US Congress members, before his address to the Joint Session, at Capitol Hill, in Washington DC, USA

Poor Pakistan. The country is struggling to garner international support on various issues. The killing of Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansour, in its soil has exposed its close links with the terror outfit. Even as the rage over Mansour was on and Pakistan vainly tried to implicate Iran by alleging that Mansour had traversed through Iran to return to Balochistan – and get killed, Iran was hosting leaders of India and Afghanistan.

The three countries signed pacts for the development of Iran’s Chabahar port and road and rail links through Iran to Afghanistan that would effectively by-pass Pakistan. The Iranian ambassador to Islamabad fuelled the anger and dismay further when he disclosed that Iran had offered Chabahar deal to Pakistan and China. Obviously, neither had shown interest. And neither expected that India would clinch it even as the American sanctions are yet to be fully lifted.

So, what are you protesting about, the critics asked as they felt that Indian was ‘isolating’ Pakistan in the region. Already, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to UAE last year, later to Saudi Arabia and this month, to Qatar, have left Pakistanis fuming. The fellow-Muslims of the Atab world may give lip service to Pakistan and may employ a few thousand blue collared Pakistani workers. But when it comes to doing business and consider investment, they would turn to India.

Modi meeting the President of United States of America (USA), Mr. Barack Obama in Oval Office, at White House, in Washington DC,
Modi meeting the President of United States of America (USA), Mr. Barack Obama in Oval Office, at White House, in Washington DC,

The anti-American sentiment is strong since the old deal for F-16 fighter aircraft fell through. The Americans refused to pick up the bill. Not just that – they also blocked military aid of $ 330 million as Pakistani has done little to contain the Haqqani network.

Amidst all this, came Modi’s five-nation tour. He opened the Salma dam in Herat. Re-christened Afghan-India Friendship Dam, it is the standing symbol of India’s commitment and presence in Afghanistan – something Pakistan intensely resents. This was Modi’s second visit to Afghanistan in six months. For the claustrophobic Pakistanis, the feeling of isolation from two immediate neighbours – Iran and Afghanistan — is complete.

That the Salma dam is in Shia majority Heart province is a good sop to Iran. Indirectly, this counterweighs Pakistan’s campaign against the Shia minorities at home.

While Modi is the fifth Indian prime minister to address the US lawmakers, Pakistan can boast only of Ayub Khan in 1961 and Benazir Bhutto in 1988 – despite Pakistan being an ally, part of the US-led military alliances and a Cold War supporter of America that had also helped it forge ties with China.

Pakistan has undoubtedly been most upset with the growing Indian-American proximity and the latter’s strong support for only India being made a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The only consolation Pakistan can derive is that China is working overtime, also pushing Islamabad’s application, and the final effect may be block India’s entry. Even as the NSG meeting was scheduled, Modi was able to knock off opposition from two key members, Switzerland and Mexico, during his five-nation tour, virtually isolating China, Pakistan’s fellow-Muslim nation Turkey that is in the throes of a presidential dictatorship and a few others who could fall in line after the American signal.

But Pakistan is inconsolable. Its anger and dismay have become a part of the official record and reaction.

It expressed its concern over growing strategic ties between India and the United States (US), a day after the two countries signed a number of agreements for security cooperation during Modi’s visit to the US.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that “the US approaches Pakistan whenever it needs it, and abandons it when it doesn’t need Pakistan.”

“Pakistan will convey its concerns to US over the latest issues in the bilateral ties,” Aziz said.

“We firmly conveyed it to the US that maintaining effective nuclear deterrence is critical for Pakistan’s security and only Pakistan itself can determine how it should respond to growing strategic imbalance in South Asia,” he said.

Modi addressing at the 40th AGM of USIBC, in Washington DC, USA 2
Modi addressing at the 40th AGM of USIBC, in Washington DC, USA 2

Always taking “me too” position against whatever India seeks from the international community, Pakistan has formally asked the US administration and Congress to support its application for joining the NSG. This came a day after Obama formally endorsed India’s application to join the group.

Pakistan submitted a formal application in Vienna last month, expressing its desire to join the group. But the US administration and Congress are both unwilling to support Pakistan.

In a letter to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Rela­tions, Pakistan’s Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani reminded Congress that Pakistan had taken a series of steps that qualify it for joining the NSG.

Not a signatory of the NPT because India has not signed, Pakistan nevertheless argues that its presence in the NSG is in the interest of nuclear trading countries, as it will further promote NSG non-proliferation objectives by the inclusion of a state with nuclear supply capabilities and its adherence to the NSG guidelines.

Pakistan argues that a non-discriminatory and equitable approach by the participating governments of the NSG would help South Asia achieve a safer and more prosperous future.

But the US is not only supporting only India’s application but is also encouraging other countries, including China, to back the Indian move.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered unconditional support to India’s entry into the NSG.

Pouring salt on the Pakistani wounds as it were, at the end of the Obama-Modi meeting, the US asked Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used for planning attacks in India’ This was after Modi told the US lawmakers that terrorism is being “incubated in India’s neighbourhood”.

“This is one of the steps that the US is encouraging Pakistan to do for the improvement of its relations with India,” a state department spokesman said on Thursday.

All this is causing not just heart-burns in Pakistan, but also complains against the leadership, both civilian and military. The Mansour killing in American drone attack has fuelled it greatly.

The Pakistan government’s throwing a hissy fit every now and then claiming “violation of its airspace and sovereignty” by American drones striking at Taliban strongholds along the Af-Pak border is drawing increasing flak at home, signifying a growing exasperation with its effete leadership.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (File)
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (File)

One of Pakistan’s best known columnists, Ayaz Amir has said: “Sovereignty is like virginity – once lost, it’s lost forever. Pakistan has been losing its sovereignty for as long as one can remember.”

Such “violation of sovereignty” has been going on for more than 12 years, when Nek Muhammad Wazir, a top anti-Pakistani jihadi, was killed in 2004 in South Waziristan in a drone attack, the first ever strike by an unmanned aerial vehicle on Pakistani soil.

Unprepared about how to react, then military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, claimed Pakistani forces had fired the missiles at Muhammad’s compound. This claim was later found out to be a blatant lie.

Since then till the last drone attack on May 21, a total of 425 CIA-driven drone attacks have occurred in Pakistan with 128 of these, the highest figure in a year, carried out in 2010.

And yet, to the chagrin of the people of Pakistan, Prime Minister Sharif goes to the US to protest at the loss of sovereignty and the /army chief Sharif, as per his PR man, remains “seriously concerned” about it.