October 10, 2011

Obama piles pressure

Oct 10, 2011, 12.00AM IST


By clearly stating that a long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan is untenable if the latter also keeps the company of terrorist groups to achieve strategic depth in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has done well to clarify American foreign policy in the region. Obama's open criticism of Pakistan's policy of using terror as an instrument of state policy validates India's position and piles pressure on Pakistan's military establishment. At the same time, the clock is ticking on American withdrawal fromAfghanistan by 2014. This is a fraught environment and New Delhi needs to watch out. There's nothing the Pakistani military hates more than losing caste, and Islamabad's downgrading from indispensable American ally to one who may be held accountable for its actions will not go down well with the security establishment.

The latter may, therefore, not be averse to ratcheting up tensions with India at this point. It would not only take domestic heat off the Pakistani military, it would also be a convenient excuse to relocate troops to its eastern front and make the Americans sweat in Afghanistan. The best strategy for New Delhi is to keep its head down and avoid public statements that may provoke Pakistan. It can send a diplomatic message that it respects Pakistan's legitimate interests in Afghanistan and is prepared to accommodate them, but will not assent to the colonisation of Afghanistan for the sake of strategic depth. At the same time New Delhi needs to beef up security across the country and do its utmost to prevent terror attacks. It should also prepare contingency plans for all sorts of terror scenarios such as 26/11-style attacks or the taking of hostages, as well as strategic counters in case such attacks are traced to Pakistan.

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