US role in Pakistan’s fluid politics

Pakistan’s prime minister Iran Khan was ousted through a vote of no confidence. Since his removal, he has been crying hoarse that his unceremonious ouster was an upshot of US regime change policy. The US punished him through his proxies for daring to visit Russia and also for trying to forge an independent policy.

The public opinion in Pakistan is divided. His supporters trust his words at face value while his opponents take his claims with a pinch of salt. The USA was initially so embarrassed that it denied any intervention in Pakistan’s internal politics. The USA’s stance was fortified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court’s judgment that smelt no rat behind the no-confidence move.

But, then, the US’s “principled” stance has been debilitated by another instance. At the conclusion of the two-plus-two dialogue, the US over-ebulliently mentioned Pakistan in the communiqué. The joint statement stated:

.  The Ministers strongly condemned any use of terrorist proxies and cross-border terrorism in all its forms and called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack, and Pathankot attack, to be brought to justice.  They called for concerted action against all terrorist groups, including groups proscribed by the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee, such as al-Qa’ida, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Hizb ul Mujahideen. The Ministers called on Pakistan to take immediate, sustained, and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorist attacks.  The Ministers committed to continued exchange of information about sanctions and designations against terror groups and individuals, countering violent radicalism, use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, and cross-border movement of terrorists.  The Ministers also emphasized the importance of upholding international standards on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism by all countries, consistent with FATF recommendations.

The skewed remarks concerning Pakistan (as also about Afghanistan) were unwarranted. The dialogue was essentially meant to take stock of the situation emerging from role of critical and emerging technologies in the new world order. Or to examine how to further strengthen the QUAD as a bulwark against China.

India’s nexus with the US as a “partner in arms” against China is no secret. In 2020, India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced the establishment of the New, Emerging and Strategic Technologies Division, which will engage in technology diplomacy and deal with foreign policy and international legal aspects of the critical and emerging technologies. The US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, in its October 2020 report, asked the State Department and Defence Department to formally negotiate with India on developing cooperation in emerging technologies. It urged the administration to create a US-India Strategic Tech Alliance with an objective to make India a focal point of the American foreign policy and an overarching Indo-Pacific strategy focused on emerging technology and India’s increasingly important geo-political role.

In March 2021, the two sides launched the US-India Artificial Intelligence Initiative to scale up science and technology cooperation. The two countries also joined the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) in June 2020 as founding members to support the responsible and human centric development and use of AI.

In 2016 meanwhile, for advancing defence and strategic technology cooperation, the US recognised India as a Major Defence Partner .The two sides have also signed the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), which protects classified information and technology being used in the defence transfers of co-production involving private companies, and the Statement of Intent on science and technology cooperation. The two sides also completed the signing of the foundational agreements, that is, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement in 2016, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in 2018, and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation in 2020 which will further facilitate defence and strategic technology cooperation. During the first Quad Leadership Summit in March 2021, the leaders of Australia, Japan, India and the US launched a working group on critical and emerging technologies

Indo US bonhomie boosts trade

India-US trade has increased from $19 billion in 2000 to $146.1 billion in 2019. India-US defence trade increased from almost negligible volume before 2008 to over $21 billion in 2021. The US export to India reached $27.4 billion in 2020. Only 1.9 per cent of India’s exports were subject to the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry Security (BIS)-licence requirement. The US exported 9.2 per cent under BIS no licence required and 1.2 per cent under a BIS licence exception. As such, the US emerged as a key

A point to ponder

At the end of the dialogue, a joint press briefing was held. It was attended by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin; Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishanker and India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh. At this briefing the US spokesperson, Blinken said:

“We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights) and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials”.

Blinker’s sentiments are not incorporated not the communiqué. Besides, India did not bother to even address the concern expressed though without mention of specific instances.

Blinker’s remarks came days after US Representative Ilhan Omar questioned the alleged reluctance of the U.S. government to criticize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on human rights.

Omar, who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, said last week, “What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace?”

Since Modi came to power, right-wing Hindu groups have launched attacks on minorities. The BJP government passed anti-conversion laws, lynched Muslim prayer goers, banned hijab, and even petitioned the court against use of loudspeakers by mosques. The disputed Kashmir was annexed as a union territory to be controlled by the centre after divesting it of statehood.

Concluding thoughts

India is habitual of blaming Pakistan for all its terrorist incidents. Investigation in almost all the cases is slipshod and evidence porous. The US and India see Lashkar-e-Tyyaba behind every `terror’ act in Kashmir or elsewhere in India. For instance, documentary analysis shows secretive Mumbai trials were translucent (Davidson, Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence).

Several questions, given heretofore come to mind about India’s `charge sheet’ on Pakistan about Pulwama incident: (a) Why did India bank on the FBI when it already possessed all communications from Pakistan? Isn’t there collusion between the FBI and India? (b) Why did India blame Pakistan even before the forensic-lab and National Investigation Agency investigation report? (c) Why are there differing reports about the weight of the RDX used?  The Indian Express speculated `High-grade RDX explosive, weighing about 80 kilograms, was used in the suicide attack’. The Hindu estimated 100-150 kg. (d) Why was a private vehicle allowed to approach the scene of an incident in violation of the CRPF Standing Operating Procedures? The CRPF’s Standing Operating Procedure required movement of up to 100 persons in a convoy. Why has the CRPF been moving such convoys, comprising more than 2,500 personnel each, on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. In the past fortnight, two such convoys had moved from Jammu to Srinagar. The latest was on February 4, with a convoy of 91 vehicles and 2,871 personnel’. (e) Why could the convoy not spot the lonely suicide vehicle trailing behind? (f) How did the terrorists know the convoy movement was delayed by two days? (g) How did they remain undetected while loading the vehicle with explosives the whole day? (h) Not only WhatsApp but also landlines have never been accessible even in Hindu-majority Jammu (occupied Kashmir). Then how come the FBI has told the NIA about the WhatsApp group operated by a member of the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad who was in contact with the people who carried out the attack on Pulwama? (i) According to the FBI, a man called Mohammed Hussain was operating the WhatsApp group, from Muzaffarabad. But the number was registered under the name of Jameela from Budgam’ (INDIA NEWS NETWORK, August 27).

Despite ups and downs, the Pak-US relations have sustained. The USA still needs Pakistan’s cooperation to steer its policies in Afghanistan. Imran khan is a charismatic leader. Till general elections are held in Pakistan after a year and half, the ousted prime minister will have turned a majority of Pakistanis into a USA-hating mob. Such an eventuality would set at naught the US efforts to stay dear with the majority of the Pakistani population.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.