Eminent speakers highlighted the points pertaining to the political and economic trends in the subcontinent in the light of US president Barack Obama’s second visit to India at a workshop titled ‘New emerging dynamics of US-India relations: response from Europe and Pakistan’ organised by the Area Study Centre for Europe (ASCE), the University of Karachi, in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation Islamabad on Thursday.
In her introductory paper, ASCE director Prof Dr Uzma Shujaat talked about the issue of power politics. She defined power as the ability to make other people do what they did not want to do. She said the world was now witnessing the emergence of other countries as major power players as “the US is facing the rise of China, Brazil and India”. She said the US-India nuclear deal would disturb the regional balance.
Prof Dr Arshad Syed Karim’s topic was the shifting foreign policy paradigms with reference to Pak-China ties. He said the discipline of international relations was a study of war, not of peace. Since time immemorial human beings have been in search of peace, and the 21st century opened a new chapter of war history (after the 9/11 events). He mentioned there were two value systems in the world: the first was to do with emotionalism and spirituality called maryada and the second was about material and technological development known as maya. The former was based on wisdom and the latter on wealth. He asserted that the Pak-China relations were indicative of the emotional value system with wisdom as its basis whereas the US-India ties hinged on materialism.
Dr Noman Sattar read out a paper on US polices towards South Asia: US-India axis. He said previously the United States’ South Asia policies were marked by the Cold War dynamics as it juggled between India and Pakistan. In the 21st century there was a dramatic shift in the wake of the 9/11 events as America’s attention turned towards Afghanistan and the country became part of the power equation. With regard to India, he said the post-Cold War era brought India and the US closer and the nuclear deal under US president George Bush and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh was the culmination of the relationship. Obama continued with that.
Dr Sattar said Indian prime minister Narendra Modi tried to strike a balance between the US and China, and though the US had become the largest arms supplier to India surpassing Russia, economy-wise their relationship had a long way to go. He said many thought the US was cultivating India to counterbalance China. In the Cold War era Pakistan counted on US support, but in the post-9/11 world the US interest in Pakistan had a new dimension because of Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Mr Obama’s visit to the subcontinent was important, he commented, and touching upon US president Bill Clinton’s stopover in Pakistan, said that Mr Obama’s visit to Pakistan couldn’t materialise owing to security concerns. The American president’s visit to India made Pakistan uneasy because it had two dimensions: Pakistan was ignored as a coalition partner and India was gaining from it.
Putting emphasis on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Dr Sattar said Indian interest in Afghanistan was a big issue for Pakistan. The US drawdown was both an opportunity and a challenge for the US. The situation in Afghanistan remained fluid, he said and urged that Pakistan needed to keep itself relevant to the security dynamics but also had to keep its house in order.
Dr Hamadullah Kakepoto spoke on the social side of things and said the social order in any region was shaped by its economic order.
Sajjad Ahmed’s paper was on nuclear states. He discussed things with reference to strategic realism that focused on foreign policy where one state responded to another state’s actions bearing security dilemmas in mind. He said in 1974 India conducted a nuclear test, as a result of which prime minister Z. A. Bhutto held a press conference demanding a nuclear umbrella. This happened because the memories of three wars fought between the two countries were fresh. The world powers tended to ignore India’s provocations and had even given it the title of a ‘responsible power’, he added.
Nausheen Wasi’s research was on EU-Pak security and foreign policy dialogue and the issue of terrorism. She said the EU-Pakistan partnership was based on interdependency and Pakistan should capitalise on this strategic interdependence.
Former ambassador Najmuddin Shaikh, who was president/discussant of the programme, first pointed out that except Dr Sattar the speakers did not shed light on the subject of the workshop. Expressing his own views on the topic, he said Mr Modi’s visit to Washington established the strength of the Indian lobby in the US. He termed Mr Modi’s Madison Square Garden programme as a ‘major event’ and ‘unique achievement’. He reminded the attendees that Bill Clinton in his 2000 visit to India had said that 40 per cent of all new start-ups in the information technology sector were of Indian origin.
He claimed that after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) the strongest foreign lobby in the US was the Indian lobby.
Mr Shaikh said it should not be lost on us that Mr Obama in his Indian visit asked Mr Modi to resume dialogue with Pakistan. It was no coincidence that Obama phoned Nawaz Sharif and the next day the Saarc yatra was announced. If Pakistan was engaged in a battle that was in the US interest it would not want it (Pakistan) to be distracted by confrontation with India, he stressed. As for the Indo-US nuclear deal, he said no American company would go to India and set up a power plant without sufficient guarantees, and remarked the nuclear issue was clouded despite its triumphal nature.
On the Afghanistan situation Mr Shaikh said Pakistan did not want the US to withdraw because ‘it’s going to be a nightmare’ unless there was reconciliation. There would be civil war in the absence of reconciliation, he iterated, and no easy takeover by the Taliban.
Published in Dawn March 6th, 2015