June 17, 2011

Failed leadership

India is courting danger by putting all its eggs in the US basket, says N.V.Subramanian.


15 June 2011: This writer wrongly assessed that it was a win-win for the United States and president Barack Obama after Osama Bin Laden was killed in a high-risk American raid. Once again, the US has tied itself up in knots on Af-Pak and particularly Afghanistan's future after 2014 when it retires its military operations. What is India to do now? The assessment this writer made of the US and president Obama after the successful Abbottabad raid was that they would gain the upper hand of dealing with Pakistan's perfidious truck with terrorists. But that is not how it has played out. The US Congress was all for rationalizing/ cutting military funding to Pakistan and linking new disbursements to progress made against the Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Haqqani Taliban leaderships based in Pakistan's FATA and Quetta. The White House and Pentagon developed cold feet on this. The eternal compromiser, John Kerry, was flown to Pakistan to placate its military, followed by the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and Pentagon brass. The latest to visit is the CIA chief and defence secretary-designate, Leon Panetta. His mission was to free CIA informants in ISI custody who helped get Osama. Panetta failed. And all this while, the US political and military leadership is spewing the same rubbish again and again. Problems with Pakistan are being sorted out. Pakistani sacrifices in the war on terror are extraordinary. And so on. What does this tell? America is most bereft of leadership today. Obama showed mettle in authorizing the Abbottabad raid despite the huge risks. But he cannot sustain courageous leadership. Nor does the US opposition give hope. Obama's predecessor, George W.Bush, gave no hint of credible leadership, apart from blundering derring-do in Iraq. He chose to hold Pakistan's hand and condone its terrorism much as Obama is doing today. This American leadership crisis won't resolve anytime soon, and certainly not as early as 2012. Whether Obama gets reelected or a Republican presidency is inaugurated, expect more of the same drifting and declining US leadership. So what is India to do in the face of US leadership troubles, especially in respect of Afghanistan and Pakistani terrorism? The brutal truth is the 26/11 case is finished. While no one will go out and say it, it seems increasingly so that the US fixed the Tahawwur Rana trial to let off ISI in 26/11. In Afghanistan, the US needs Pakistan more than India. Nothing India says or does will change this state of affairs. Days before Rana's acquittal on 26/11, India gifted a $4.1 billion deal to the US for ten C-17s. Not only are these heavy lifters overpriced, they insubstantially add to India's military prowess. Even in a power projection role (which India baulks from), these aircraft come with huge disadvantages. And yet, the deal went unquestioned in India, and brought no favourable verdict in the Rana trial. Nobody will accept the existence of this quid pro quo. But it was there. And it came to nothing. Indeed, this writer would argue that good Indian monies are going to the US via C-17-like deals for a portion of it to be recycled to Pakistan as military aid. Which means Indian monies are financing anti-India Pakistani terrorism. So much for the sagacity of the Indian leadership in blindly seeking US strategic partnership. A wiser course would be to take a pause, and reassess the whole Indo-US dynamic. Specific to Afghanistan, it would mean for India to do exactly what suits its interests there, including annulling Pakistani designs to gain strategic depth against this country. India's independent course on Afghanistan has been previously spelt out by this writer. India would imperil its security by abandoning independent policy-making and action in the face of failed and visionless US leadership.

N.V.Subramanian is Editor, www.NewsInsight.net, and writes internationally on strategic affairs.

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