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Kerry's friendly overtures towards Pakistan worry India
 
 
 

NEW YORK - India views John Kerry, the new US secretary of state, as friendly to Pakistan and his recent pronouncements favouring strengthened ties with Islamabad has New Delhi worried, according to an Indian academic."The Massachusetts senator is widely viewed in Indian circles as sympathetic to Pakistan's viewpoint," Harsh Pant, professor of defence studies at King's College, London, wrote in the conservative Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.Pant especially cites Kerry's statements at his confirmation hearing last week that Pakistani government has not been given sufficient credit for its counterterrorism role as also his strong advocacy against adopting a "dramatic, draconian, sledgehammer approach," to relations with Pakistan because the South Asian country is too integral to America's supply routes into Afghanistan."New Delhi isn't pleased to hear all this ...," Pant writes in the piece, entitled: Islamabad's Man in Washington?In this context, the Indian academic notes that Kerry helped broker the release of the CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, and later persuaded Pakistani officials to return parts of a US stealth helicopter that crashed during the May 2011 raid on Abbottabad."In short, Mr Kerry seems always willing to talk to Islamabad, which is why India's hyperactive media has already labelled him as a friend of Pakistan," Pant says.The author also refers to the Kerry-Lugar-Berman act in 2009 that authorised a $7.5 billion financial aid package to Pakistan, and said, "So Indians infer that Mr Kerry is unfriendly toward Delhi." In this regard, he cites a statement made by Pakistan's Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman praising Kerry as ‘a steadfast friend of Pakistan’ as a confirmation to that suggestion."The larger subtext to Delhi's apprehensions about Mr Kerry is Washington's strategy in the Af-Pak region," the author adds.Pant writes: "The US is preparing for its military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. Earlier this month, when President Obama hosted Hamid Karzai at the White House, he went as far as to say that there would hardly be a residual force in Afghanistan after 2014. It was John Kerry who long ago dubbed the Afghan war 'unsustainable’, and it doesn't bode well that Washington is coming around to this dovish consensus."New Delhi has been warily anticipating this turn in American policy, worried that Washington will again cozy up to Islamabad. Indians see Washington's refusal last week to extradite David Coleman Headley — one of the planners of the 2008 Mumbai attacks — to India, as well as its grant of immunity to two former generals of Pakistan's intelligence services for their alleged involvement in those attacks, as part of this bigger change. "India's other worry is the return of the Taliban. Pakistan is leveraging its role in the ongoing transition in Afghanistan by releasing some Taliban leaders and expressing its support for a negotiated settlement there. Islamabad wants to let the Taliban and the Haqqani network loose in post-2014 Afghanistan, so it can exercise control over Kabul. All this leaves India out of the Afghan picture, even though Mr Karzai has wished for an Indian presence to counterbalance Pakistan. "The more dominant Pakistan feels in the neighbourhood, the more it may be willing to risk confrontation with India,” the writer claims.“Witness the recent ceasefire violations on the de facto border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. In a future confrontation, Delhi may want to retaliate — and it’s concerned Mr Kerry will pressure it to back off."All this would reverse the years of relative stability in South Asia that followed the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Hillary Clinton has at least always been emphatic in asking Pakistan to do more to root out homegrown terrorism, and this rhetoric along with a military presence helped Indian interests. Now her successor wants to underline how much Pakistan has already done, instead of what it should do next."That said, New Delhi has not helped its cause either. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government last year turned down Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's overtures for India to be part of the Asia pivot. Because of such political dithering, Mr Singh has allowed a constituency to grow in Washington that doubts India's ability to emerge as America's strategic partner in Asia."President Obama told the Indian prime minister at the East Asia summit in Phnom Penh soon after his re-election in November 2012 that he has ‘big plans’ for India in his second term. But Mr Kerry's pending appointment and the paralysis in Delhi are not great indicators for the future of US-India ties.”

 
 
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