By Mansoor Jafar
WHEN Israel was attacking unarmed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing thousands of innocent men, women and children, US Secretary of State John Kerry should have stationed himself in the Middle East to make the several months of unsuccessful shuttle diplomacy succeed.
Yet, it could have surprised the whole world to learn that he was thousands of miles away on a political visit to New Delhi as part of establishing friendly ties with the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom Washington had denied a visa to for his alleged patronage of the Muslim killings in Gujarat state just a decade ago.
But after Modi won the Indian elections, Washington swiftly changed its stance and President Obama himself invited Modi to visit the United States. The visit is likely to take place in September this year.
In the joint communiqué after the Kerry-Modi meeting, Washington expressed solidarity with Delhi and equated the Kashmiri group “Lashkar-e-Taiba” with Al-Qaeda and expressed US preparedness to disrupt both through mutual collaboration.
Both countries also reportedly stressed their desire for Pakistan to try and punish those accused of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Washington also assured Delhi that it was waiting for reforms in the UN Security Council in order to accommodate Delhi as a permanent member of the world’s top decision-making body.
Despite the fact United States has been a friend of Pakistan for six decades, its showering of unusual favors to Islamabad’s arch-rival Delhi seems strange. Delhi has been viewed by some as an ally of the United States’ rival the Soviet Union and I believe it remained so even after the breakup of the USSR.
Against the backdrop of Kerry wooing Modi, the new Indian army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag publicly recalled media reports of the alleged 2013 beheading of an Indian soldier on duty close to the Line of Control (LoC). Islamabad has repeatedly denied that Pakistani troops were involved in the attack.
Islamabad seems to have long been proud of its long but unreliable friendship with Washington. Despite that, Washington has been conducting sanctioned air and land strikes on Pakistani territory that have led to the death of soldiers and civilians in the name of targeting suspected Taliban militants.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States needed Pakistani bases to invade Afghanistan, which Gen. Pervez Musharraf promptly provided. The 13-year US war has caused Pakistan to suffer a loss of resources and infrastructure damage as well as the loss of civilian and military life.
The US war in Afghanistan is nearly over and the US army is about to quit the country, leaving behind a few military bases. Yet, it seems the ultimate loser in the war is Islamabad since the United States has managed to shift the battlefield into Pakistan under the slogan of a “war on terrorism,” turning the whole country into a war zone. The flames of this war are expected to ravage Pakistan even after the United States has left the region. Yet to me it seems that an apathetic Washington is bent upon showering favors on Pakistan’s arch-rival India.
Before leaving for India, Kerry praised Modi’s slogan of a “Saffron Revolution,” and vowed to extend every possible support to India at both state and private sector levels in pursuit of energy and progress. Kerry assured Modi of taking bilateral ties to a stage where both states could become effective partners in real terms.
Only a few days earlier, Kerry had rushed to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was carrying out what some see as a full-fledged massacre of Palestinian Muslims in Gaza, and termed the Israeli attacks as Tel Aviv’s “right to defend itself.”
US patronage of Delhi is, I believe, aimed at making the country a globally powerful ally as a counterweight to China’s influence in the region. Washington has been pursuing this policy for a long time, it seems. US multinational companies have been treating India as the largest market of middle-class people since the administration of George W. Bush. It was in this perspective that John Kerry urged India to show more flexibility on trade and encourage foreign investments to promote trade, which would benefit both the countries.
It is an open secret that the United States is likely to want to curtail China’s role as the world’s leading economic power in this region. It seems Pakistan has no choice but to promote existing relations with China in order to protect its own interests in the region. Besides, Islamabad should also engage other Muslim countries in promoting bilateral trade like Turkey, Iran and especially Malaysia, where a sizable chunk of the population is of Chinese descent.