Holbrooke: We Won't Press India for Peace with Pakistan

U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen "took pains to make it clear" the US would not press India to negotiate with Pakistan on sensitive issues, AP reports:

"We did not come here to ask the Indians for anything," Holbrooke said. "We were not there, I repeat, we were not there, to negotiate Pakistani-Indian relations."

I hope, for the sake of U.S. troops and the people of Afghanistan, that Holbrooke was lying.

Because if Holbrooke was telling the truth, the American people deserve an explanation.

Recently U.S. officials have been saying more and more openly what they previously only hinted at: the U.S. problem with the Pakistani government is not merely that the Pakistani government "isn't committed" to dealing with the fact that Afghan insurgents have sanctuaries in Pakistan; parts of the Pakistani state apparatus are, allegedly, actively supporting insurgent groups. And they're doing this, according to US officials cited in press reports, because they believe that it serves their interests to do so in their long confrontation with India.

Therefore, it would seem blindingly obvious, and people in and around the Obama administration have indicated that they understand this, that if you want to achieve a lasting political resolution to Afghanistan's problems, you ought to try to address Pakistan's motivations for supporting insurgents in Afghanistan and to address their security concerns with respect to India. In other words, you ought to try to promote India-Pakistan peace, and that includes supporting efforts to resolve the problem of Kashmir.

When Holbrooke's posting was announced, India objected vigorously to the idea that India-Pakistan, especially Kashmir, would be part of his remit. In response to India's complaints, that part of his remit was officially dropped. But, it was suggested at the time, this would still be part of his remit; it just wouldn't be public.

So, if you believe that assurance, then it would be completely consistent with that assurance for Holbrooke to lie. Indeed, you want Holbrooke to be lying. According to the assurance, he's not going to acknowledge that he's talking to India about India-Pakistan peace. But he's still going to press them on it.

But then to judge whether Holbrooke is actually pursuing the aggressive diplomacy to resolve violent and potentially violent conflicts that the American people were promised in November, you would have to look at concrete results.

And although it's "early days," as the British say, the results so far do not seem to indicate that Holbrooke is pressing India very hard, if he is indeed pressing India at all; certainly, the impression in Pakistan seems to be that the U.S. is tilting toward India.

Consider this spectacular example. New Kerala News reports:

Pakistan's Science and Technology Minister Azam Khan Swati has said that US policies aim to dismantle Pakistan, neutralise Iran and contain China to make India a regional superpower to achieve her objectives.

He further said that NATO's presence in the region was a great threat to the very existence of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Iran as well. "American policies are not of a friend but of a foe and Richard Holbrooke and Mike Mullen are in Pakistan to put a price on our loyalty to our religion and the Islamic State of Pakistan but we are not a saleable commodity," Swati said.

Commenting on the recent visit of the US military and political leadership to Pakistan, he said Obama's administration was following the conspiracy hatched by then President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield and would lead America towards destruction.

Swati added the US policy aimed to destroy Pakistani Armed Forces, marginalise state-of-the-art security agency, ISI, and ruin Pakistan. "To achieve its objectives, Americans are spreading hatred in the mind and heart of the people of world by portraying Islamists as cruel, inhuman and threat to humanity, and are trying to divide Pakistani nation on religious basis," he said.

This is a minister in the democratically elected government of Pakistan, our supposed ally. Certainly, as Minister of Science and Technology, the US may not be terribly worried about his influence on government policies that the US is concerned about. But as a barometer of Pakistani opinion, the comments indicate, to put it mildly, an extreme distrust of the United States government. The US could write him off as a member of an anti-US party. But consider that this minister of the elected government is offering this interpretation of US actions to Pakistanis. This forms part of the context in which the US is operating. Can the US afford to take actions which are likely to be interpreted in Pakistan at this critical juncture as a tilt towards India - like publicly applying pressure to Pakistan against their perceived national interests, but not applying any pressure to India?

A rational policy by the United States would surely weigh the following. On the one hand, we're being asked to support more money and more troops for war, more deaths of US soldiers in insurgent attacks, more deaths Afghan and Pakistani civilians in US bombing.

On the other hand, we know that India-Pakistan peace would help promote stability in Afghanistan.

What price, exactly, would we pay for pressing India for compromise that would be more expensive than the lives of US troops and the lives of Afghan and Pakistani civilians?

There are so many challenges needed in the field. Not that everybody will just follow orders.

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