Obama’s Asian visit: the Pak, China factor

In the weeks preceding Obama’s visit to India, there was an attempt by the Obama Administration to remove the impression among the Indians the US was giving greater priority to China

The top most agenda of Present Obama’s visit to Asia, prticularly India was a frank exchange of views with the leaderships of these countries on Pakistan, Afghanistan and the rise of China. In fact the US sees a bigger role for India in the region, especially with its unease over China’s growing economic development. The question arises that whether a strong Indo-US relationship will have any impact an already strained Indo-China relationship? In New Delhi there is a great degree of concern over Obama’s Pakistan policy. The Obama administration depends mainly on Pakistan in the war on terror. For this purpose, the US has announced military aid worth US$2 billion for Pakistan. Actually Americans have a plan to  maintain a balance between India and Pakistan. On the other hand, the US has now embarked upon a strategy to prop up India as a counterweight to China’s growing political and economic power.

Regarding Obama’s visit to India and its influence on Pakistan, the first point is that Obama maintained silence on Kashmir rather giving statements asking India and Pakistan to resolve their longstanding issues. His support for a step-by-step solution to first tackle the ‘easy issues is, in fact, backing of the Indian approach to the Indo-Pak talks. However, he supported the demand of ending human rights violations in Myanmar but did not utter even a single word about right abuses in Indian-held Kashmir.

To bring India closer to the US, President Obama offered maximum incentives to New Delhi, including recognition of Indian global leadership, easing of controls on high-tech exports, backing of its role in Afghanistan and support for Indian membership of four multilateral export control regimes.

The strategic prize for India was Obama’s support for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council permanent seat which topped Delhi’s old desire.
On the other side of the border, China and Pakistan are looking at Obama’s visit from a different angle. They are considering it as a warning not to underestimate the Indian designs. Obama is the first US President, who visited India while flying over Pakistan. Skipping Islamabad is considered ignoring Pakistan’s frontline role in the US war on terror. In Pakistan, people may not like the US but they love Obama. There could be so many reasons for this liking but the most prominent of all these reasons is President Obama’s unannounced relationship with Islam. He is perhaps the only American president whose success was warmly celebrated in Pakistan. There was a very common feeling in Pakistan that President Obama would minimize the distances created by the Bush administration between the two countries. Now it seems that all those feelings were nothing but a sweet dream; whether black or white, Americans are Americans; they all think and act in the same way and the same direction; this is what now people of Pakistan opine.

Side-lining Pakistan is, in fact, a message to the people of Pakistan from their most loved and admired US leader Obama that Pakistan is a means not the destination; they must not over-estimate their actual position. No doubt it is a very bitter message but it would help them realise the situation and act accordingly in future. For the last many decades, Pakistan has been sacrificing almost all it could, but it got nothing in return. Obama’s visit to India is the best example of this distrust and disbelief.

In the weeks preceding Obama’s visit to India, there was an attempt by the Obama Administration to remove the impression among the Indians the US was giving greater priority to China and was encouraging a strategic role for China in South Asia in the context of Afghanistan and Indo-Pak relations. The US policy was clarified by Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, in a speech on October 28 this year. She said: “The relationship between China and the United States is complex and of enormous consequence but we are committed to getting it right. There are some in both countries who believe that China’s interests and ours are fundamentally at odds. They apply a zero-sum calculation to our relationship, so whenever one of us succeeds, the other must fail. But that is not our view. In the 21st century, it is not in anyone’s interest for the United States and China to see each other as adversaries. In a crowded field of highly dynamic, increasingly influential emerging nations, two stand out: India and China. Their simultaneous rise is reshaping the world and our ability to cooperate effectively with these countries will be a critical test of our leadership.”

The policy of cooperating effectively with India and China was also underlined by Obama’s White House aides in their interactions with the media before President Obama’s visit to India. This policy of equality of strategic relationship with India and China without favouring one to the detriment of the other is reflected  in the references to India’s engagement with the East in Obama’s address to the Indian Parliament and in the joint statement issued at the end of his visit to India: ‘The two leaders have a shared vision for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia, the Indian Ocean region and the Pacific region and committed to work together, and with others in the region, for the evolution of an open, balanced and inclusive architecture in the region. In this context, the two leaders reaffirmed their support for the East Asia Summit and committed to regular consultations in this regard. It is evident that the US will not like to get involved in matters relating to the Sino-Indian border dispute. Remarks by Hillary Clinton and other US officials have indicated that the US will not be averse to playing a role in the search for a mutually satisfactory solution to the maritime disputes involving China with Japan in the East China Sea and with some ASEAN countries in the South China Sea. But, it does not envisage a role for itself in the territorial disputes between India and China. This suits India too which prefers sorting out bilateral issues ‘whether with Pakistan or China’ at the bilateral level without the involvement of third party.

President Obama’s visit brought a vivid change in the political scenario of South Asia. Instead of patronizing India, US should try to improve its relationship with China and Pakistan. All these countries enjoy a better repute in the region than India. Relationship with these countries would add to the honour and credibility of the US. In fact, India has earned a lot of bad reputation because of its involvement in various nefarious activities in the region. It has so many conflicts and confrontation with the neighbouring countries. China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and above all Sri Lanka, all are in trouble at the hands of New Delhi. Pakistan has always been the worst victim to the Indian atrocities. The hegemonic desires of India have turned this region into a battlefield. President Obama should cast a deep look into the state of affairs. His role must be of a solicitor not that of an instigator. It is time for Obama to show his statesmanship and convince Indian leadership to resolve Kashmir dispute as per the UN resolutions. President Obama is a wise and intelligent politician, who prefers rightful and fair deals and knows very well how to tackle the situation. Being ambassador of world peace, he can initiate and guarantee a long term peace and prosperity in the region.


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