Pakistan’s “all-weather friendship” with China is relatively recent but its deep-going relationship with America goes back six decades.
In his policy announcement on Afghanistan on August 21, US President Donald Trump had roasted Pakistan for aiding and “housing” terrorists who fought the US forces in Afghanistan, as he urged India to do more by way of development activity in Afghanistan. He gave the impression of publicly undercutting Islamabad in the Afghan theatre, in particular, and boosting India’s locus standi. But now the American leader has done an about turn.
Last week, a day after Pakistani forces rescued an American-Canadian couple from the clutches of the Haqqani group after they spent a harrowing five years in captivity, Mr Trump tweeted to say that the US had now started to “develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders”. He also noted that he wanted to thank Pakistan’s leadership “for their cooperation on many fronts”.
Some commentators have quibbled over whether this amounted to a policy statement, or whether it was an ejaculation of a temperamental leader after a specific event — the help in rescue of an American family. This supposed nuancing overlooks the fact that recently US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who is expected in New Delhi later this month, observed after meeting Pakistan foreign minister Khawaja Asif recently that Pakistan was crucial to stability in the region.
Pakistan’s “all-weather friendship” with China is relatively recent but its deep-going relationship with America goes back six decades. When this very structural relationship comes under strain, the Pakistanis hand the US the equivalent of a lollipop, which in this case was the rescuing of an American man and his family.
This pattern has repeated itself and there is no surprise here. The surprise is that the Indians should begin to look upon America as a friend. This appears to have been the case with the present government, and the sense was strengthened with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June this year where he attempted to give Mr Trump as tight an embrace he could.
But a bear hug does not necessarily denote warmth in diplomacy, in the practice of which interests of nations alone matter. For a country like America, with vital interests strewn around the world, it is unlikely that in any region it will choose one country over another specially if these are in conflict, as in the case of India and Pakistan.
There are two lessons straightaway. To combat terrorism, India must not count on any other nation. And in its dealings with Afghanistan, New Delhi must stand on its own feet and look out for itself.