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Hillary Clinton's visit – An Analysis

July 21, 2009 2 comments

Hillary Clinton’s love for India is not the same that is echoed by the U.S. State Department. No irony here, only reality! A number of media addresses, emphasis on education, interaction with the captains of industry and shopping expeditions later, one questions the progress of Indo-American relations given the hawkish view of the State Department and the perpetual threat of terrorism emanating from an ever turbulent Pakistan, something that hasn’t been addressed the way India would have liked the United States to have!

The Indian media made a huge fanfare of the visit and went long miles to please the visiting dignitary. The weekend newspapers were emblazoned with pictures and snippets of the Secretary while the delegation was given a warm welcome and treated to soulful Indian curries by the platter, even as news media channels staged live debates and analysis of this visit, as if it were a second-coming of the Lord himself! But, make no mistake, for Secretary Clinton came calling in warm terms as a ‘friend of India’ to which the Indian machinery found themselves swinging in musical pleasure!

I do not intend to negate or in any manner undermine the relationship Clinton shares with India, particularly in the light of her founding the India caucus in the upper house of the U.S. Congress, following her election as the senator from New York. A whole lot more has happened to cause particular warmth between her person and our nation, undoubtedly. But this visit was different and needed to be looked at differently, considering her position and Obama administration’s commitment to the world to aid ‘democratic nations’ in the war against terror.

While the State Department has sometimes, coming under some diplomatic pressure, echoed Secretary Clinton’s India bonhomie, it is common knowledge that their inclination lies oriented towards Pakistan, something which has been a happenstance for many many decades now. This attitude needs to change to bring about some level of credibility towards the statements that have been made warranting the need for increased cooperation and bilateral ties between both nations.

And then, there is the issue of terrorism originating from Pakistan, which has been proved a number of times of having the backing and complicity of state actors. This needs to be viewed very seriously. That Pakistan is an ally of the United States in the War on Terror, automatically makes it mandatory for it to shun any support for terror directed towards the Indian sovereign, something that it has repeatedly failed to adhere to as was seen even during the 26/11 episode. The United States, particularly the State Department needs to understand that a conducive environment is needed for solving issues that have long been kept at bay and state sponsored terrorism, such as that orchestrated by Pakistan, cannot help achieve such a climate.

Pakistan is fast becoming the breeding ground for global jihad and Washington needs to take cognizance of this fact and shape policies towards countering terrorist activists. While Hillary’s statement that “both nations have suffered at the hands of terrorists. And the breeding ground of this threat is India’s neighbour, Pakistan. Thus, when South Asia, described as the world’s most dangerous place and where India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are situated, is boiling, who can be the stabilizer? It can only be India which has a Muslim population that is almost five times that of Afghanistan and almost equals Pakistan’s” echoes the reality that is faced by India, it is also important to understand that anti-state elements in Pakistan were a creation of Pakistan itself and not the handiwork of an external force or element!

Terrorism is only one of the many issues that is an area of concern, apart from which there are areas such as trade, outsourcing, climate change, education and so on needing attention.

After this much publicized whirlwind trip, one really wonders about the possible outcome. Is the reality going to change? Will Indo-US relations scale new heights or is this just an eyewash that has been made to make India ‘feel good’ ahead of an impending statement in the not so distant future, which as seen in the past, will favour Pakistan and ignore the ground reality?

Also, what guarantee has the United States received that a next terror attack on its soil will not be aided by Pakistan or as they say ‘elements from within?’

Two to Tango – Russia & America

President Obama’s first visit to Russia as Commander-in-Chief of the United States is very significant. There’s a lot of mending of fences to do and a relook at strengthening bilateral relations that needs to be done on a serious footing. That apart, the two countries need to underscore the need to work together very closely in areas such as combating terror, which is a growing threat to many nations and their people. Their first meeting ahead of the G20 summit in London, held earlier this year, will certainly help them bond well and one hopes for it to be that way considering the extensive areas of cooperation their nations need to engage in.

The Bush administration viewed its Russian counterparts as hawkish and chose to remain wary in their interactions with Moscow, an action that fueled a number of cold war type instances that may have come to be, thankfully not, given the maturity with with each side has handled the other in particular.

The American pull-out from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 is not so distant in the past to be forgotten, but even fresh is the Russo-Georgian conflict which was dragged into the purview of the NATO of which Georgia is a member nation. The summer of 2007 also saw some tense moments with the United States announcing plans of building an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and a radar architecture in the Czech Republic, both nations being former Warsaw Pact members. While United States cited this as a protectionist measure from any nuclear attack that may originate from the soils of Iran or North Korea, Russia rebutted the explanation and tested a long range intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24 and backed it up with a serious view that it could position its missiles towards Poland and the Czech Republic in the event of an American go-ahead of the stated plan.

Although President Putin’s warnings that American actions could turn Europe into a “powder keg” did not come true, for good reasons, a war of words between both heavyweights ensued with each side choosing to articulate its right of stand in the backdrop of a tense situation that could have lead to some deadlock among them signalling the beginning of a new arms race and power play, the least of which the world wanted at the time.

Vladimir Putin’s Iranian visit aimed at discussions of Russia’s aid to Iran’s nuclear power program in the backdrop of an American call for military action against Iran which Russia firmly opposed, prompted Bush to state a direct message to Putin that “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” A sharp witted Putin retorted comparing American plans to put up a missile defense system near Russia’s border as analogous to when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba, prompting the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Just as the missile defence plans were getting each nation into a tirade of words with each other, Russia intervened in Georgia, when Georgia invaded South Ossetia. It did not help that senior Georgian officials acknowledged to have started the war in the region which prompted a certain Russian response. Georgia being part of NATO was viewed as a significant standpoint in the now faltering Russo-American relationship. While NATO members howled at one of their member nations being attacked, Russia staved away any attempt to stall the invasion by an external force and firmly drew the Georgian misadventure to a close within a remarkably short period of time.

More recently the joint naval exercises between Russia and Venezuela have fumed the White House and the State Department owing to their regard of the latter as a nation not aligned with the interests of the United States. The recently concluded missile tests by North Korea has brought the United States and Russia together in their condemnation of the act which both view as a cause for any nuclear engagement that may take place.

With all this as part of a turbulent background, both leaders clearly have to do a lot to work their way towards warming one another in arriving at a consensus regarding many issues that form part of their cooperation agenda. For starters, their views on North Korea are encouraging, but this is just the beginning. There is a simmering Pakistan aided by the United States in the War on Terror, an exercise that seems to be headed nowhere with no clear agenda in place. Iran continues to be a serious issue which still needs a lot of sitting-down-to-talk! The issue of jointly eliminating pirates in Somali waters is also in the backdrop and requires ongoing commitment and participation from both sides.

On the economic front, a lot needs to be done to arrive at an agreement in many spheres aimed at staving off the effects of the global recession which has affected the world at large. General Motors which last year setup a plant in St. Petersburg is now in hot water back at home. Its is believed that American investment has been growing at a rate of fifty percent a year and two-way trade between Russia and the United States now exceeds $26 billion, and two-way investment is approaching $20 billion, all of which is good news.

Caviar, wine and curry later, both leaders must aim significantly at laying the framework to improving two-way cooperation that will foster good relations with each other, paving way for partnerships like never before. That in place, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club and governor of Chukotka, can focus on making rich pickings off his £80m investments in the world’s largest drilling exercise aimed at creating a tunnel between Russia and the United States, a Tsarist vision lying unattended to since the early 20th century! It makes better sense not to build a real bridge between the two nations as desired by the current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The menace of the Taliban

Bill Casey and Gen Zia Ul Huq would have had a lot of questions to answer had they been alive, particularly uncomfortable ones at that! Casey, in all probably, might have wanted to forget that he ever made the “We will know that we have succeeded when everything the public believes is false” statement. Success in falsehood have since come to haunt Pakistan and the NWFP ever since, with the creation and proliferation of the ominous Taliban which have dented the United States with the 9/11 incident and continue to bog them down along with their Pakistani counterparts elsewhere in Afghanistan, not to forget the significant damage they continue to wreck upon the ever turbulent Islamic republic of Pakistan!

The war on terror is far from over and the Taliban is anything but defeated with the United States shaping one strategy or another, inclusive of conditional aid to Pakistan. CIA Director Leon Panetta can afford to think aloud about Bin-Laden’s whereabouts but that is not getting him any closer to nabbing the world’s most wanted notorious element of terror soon! Repeated drone-aided pounding of the Af-Pak region in the hopes of distancing and dismantling the Taliban is obviously not proving to yield any desired results, and, on the contrary is making the place more deadly and volatile than ever before.

What is lacking on the part of the United States is a well coordinated HUMINT effort along with their Pakistani supports to understand the ground level situation and counter the same. Presently, a great deal of resources and efforts are being directed towards TECHINT efforts which are yet to bring results to the table. Worse still, the repeated uncoordinated attacks initiated by the United States Army in the region are causing more of the locals to join hands with the Taliban in what they see as an infidel violation of their scared land. If anything, this is making the US Army sweat more in the deadlock of not being able to reign in the fighters who have better knowledge of the terrain, much to the chagrin of their Corps Commanders and bosses ensconced in Washington. Observers in Washington couldn’t be more naive than providing repeated financial assistance to the government of Pakistan as part of what they call a systematic effort to fight the war on terror.

What is urgently needed is that the United States coordinate with the Pakistani Army in engaging in joint operations to first sanitize the regions and free it from the warring brigades of Taliban and help establish outposts that are jointly manned and protected. This ensures that the scourge does not spill over to other parts of Pakistan. Secondly, the ultra porous border that Pakistan shares with its neighbor Afghanistan needs urgent monitoring and securing. Though this may seem a marathon task, which it certainly is, it can be attained with the help of UAVs that can be deployed to track the movement of people across the border. Detachments need to be posted at strategic points to monitor people crossing over and their supply routes need to be checked from time to time, thereby preventing mass trafficking of weapons and other war material. However, before any concrete action is taken on this front, the United States needs to ensure that the ISI is not actually aiding separatist factions by supplying them weapons and resources which find safe cover in many madarassas and local safe houses belonging to chieftains in the area.

The Pakistani President’s recent statement that the nation is committed to fight the Taliban has been one of the many that has been repeated from time to time given the instances of terrorism that continue to plague the region. An informed observer would assign very insignificant importance to such echoes that are meant only for the comfort of the prying ears in Washington and the International Community. The truth is that Pakistan now stands at the brink of collapse given the rapidly escalating situation, if it not were to take any concrete measures to arrest the proliferation of the Taliban. And then, there is always the looming danger of nuclear weapons in Pakistan falling into the hands of terror elements, such an act capable of bringing unspeakable disaster to surrounding nations, India in particular!

Now that the Taliban is regrouping in nations such as Yemen and Somalia, where governments have been weak for sometime now, the threat of multi-locational terror operations being staged over a huge geography suddenly seems very real! Fighting an adept enemy who has no permanent base of operations along with the advantage of being highly mobile and possessive of a fluid structure could prove very costly to the United States and Pakistan.

I’m wondering if, in hindsight, some people ponder over the mistake they have made in creating a Frankenstein  which has now grown significantly, both, in numbers and in ideology!

Is this another classic illustration of the cause and effect theory?