Saturday, April 9, 2016

Obama’s presidential legacy in South Asia is abysmally poor

MK Bhadrakumar,

Modi-Sharif image from article

The latent India­-Pakistan tensions have erupted following a disclosure by the Pakistani envoy to
New Delhi Abdul Basit on Thursday that the dialogue between the two countries stands
‘suspended’. ...

Pakistan probably sees devils where none exists, but then, perceptions matter ...
[India PM] Narendra Modi ... has a controversial past of being ‘anti-­Muslim’, ‘anti-Pakistan’. 
The Manichean fears have surged in the Pakistani mind. Meanwhile, India’s ‘public diplomacy’ 
has also assumed a cutting edge lately. ...

In sum, Modi is going through the motions of a charm offensive on the diplomatic front vis-­à-­vis
Prime Minister Sharif, where the initiative rests in his hands. He is entirely at liberty to close or
open the tap as it suits him. On the contrary, Sharif finds himself in an untenable position, being 
ridiculed as naïve or impulsive by allowing himself to be led up the garden path by Modi. ...

Most certainly, there should be greater international involvement in restraining the two nuclear
powers, and the US is best placed to do that. But then, life is real.

However, the lure of the Indian market and the urgency to get India to bandwagon with the US’
rebalance in Asia are today’s overriding considerations in the American calculus. As for
Pakistan, Washington prioritizes the strategic necessity to counter China’s One Belt, One Road.

Suffice it to say, while the US claims that it is a stakeholder in India-­Pakistan amity, it is unwilling
to push the two countries in that direction, despite realizing that left to themselves, the two
regional adversaries lack the political will to resolve their differences peacefully in a spirit of give
and take. Paradoxically, the US’ regional priorities only contribute to the India­-Pakistan tensions.

Obama, with all his ingenuity, has failed to reconcile this contradiction in the US’ South Asia
strategy, and it makes a poor presidential legacy because in the ultimate analysis, an India-Pakistan
nuclear flashpoint could threaten international security far more seriously than the
‘breakout’ time available for Tehran to assemble an atomic bomb.

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