M A I N   N E W S

News Analysis by K. Subrahmanyam
India, Pakistan and US

While large sections of the Indian media bemoaned the lack of some much-anticipated positive outcome out of the Manmohan Singh - Musharraf dinner meeting in New York some important aspects of that meeting appear to have been overlooked in most of the media analysis.

This time, General Musharraf appeared to make demands which he knew would be unacceptable to India, such as troops reduction in Kupwara and Baramula. In the UN General Assembly address he raised the Kashmir issue which he did not last year.

When the Prime Minister firmly told him that unless violence in Kashmir came down further and reduction in cross-border infiltration was sustained and the situation was stabilised over a period of months, India could not consider troop reductions he was sending out several messages not only to General Musharraf but to the US as well. Because, following General Musharraf came Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pleading for concessions from India to Pakistan on Kashmir.

One would have thought that with the Iranian proliferation issue being upper-most in the American mind, General Musharraf would keep a low profile, Pakistan being the originator of the Iranian nuclear proliferation. He did not. On the other hand, he admitted to the US media for the first time that Dr A.Q. Khan did supply centrifuges to North Korea. Just a week earlier, came the disclosures of former Dutch Prime Minister Dr Ruud Lubbers about the long-standing connection between the CIA and Dr Khan.

It was logical to expect that the American media would focus on Iran-Pakistan - A.Q. Khan proliferation connection and subject General Musharraf to a lot of searching questions. No, the American media was totally silent on the issue but some of them focused on the Indian view that diplomacy should be allowed more time to deal with the Iranian issue in the IAEA Board. This advice was referred to as a major divide between the US and India.

The US media does not behave in this illogical way without some bureaucratic prodding. The world saw that kind of understanding between the US media and the Administration at the time of search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which turned out to be non-existent.

Presumably General Musharraf interpreted this US silence on the Pakistani role in Iranian proliferation and US media focusing on alleged US-India differences on Iran as a great opportunity to up his ante and demand immediate troop reduction in Kupwara and Baramula. He should have been further encouraged by the fact there was no reaction to President Karzai’s plea in an interview to the BBC a few days earlier that the US must change its strategy in the war on terrorism and go after the source of terrorism.

Though he did not name the source, he left no doubt that he meant Pakistan. Further, General Musharraf was also promised a much larger number of F-16 aircraft than has hitherto been mentioned in public. In these circumstances General Musharraf cannot be faulted if he had concluded from the US behaviour that hyphenation between India and Pakistan has been restored in the US policy.

It puzzles India why after signing the July 18 joint statement the US is behaving this way. It does not at all add to the credibility of President Bush and Secretary Rice that after their having described India as a responsible nuclear power with an impeccable record on proliferation they allow their bureaucracy to encourage the US media to indulge in innuendoes that India’s opposition to Iranian proliferation is anything less than total.

It is mysterious why the US officials did not come out in public that India cancelled its contract to supply an experimental reactor to Iran even as Dr A.Q. Khan was busy supplying uranium hexafluoride gassification plant to Teheran. They were aware that the Indian Foreign Minister visited Iran in support of Eu-3 compromise. This ambivalent attitude of the US administration is bound to cast a long shadow on the implementation of the July 18 joint statement.

For the US, the proposed partnership with India, for which they took the initiative is a new experience. In the past when they helped to build up Germany, Japan and China as world-class powers they were dealing with nations which relied on the US for their security either directly as in the cases of Germany and Japan or indirectly as in the case of China which felt threatened by the Soviet Union. India is not in that category and therefore the US must be prepared for Indian partnership somewhat different in its character than what it had known in earlier cases.

Since this partnership proposal came from the top level, the Bush-Rice team, it is to be expected that it would run into opposition from large sections of cold-war conditioned US bureaucracy, academia and media. In assessing the present situation and adjusting Indian policies to it, a careful examination of alternative possibilities has to be undertaken.

The first possibility is while the Bush-Rice team is sincere, the subordinate bureaucracy is bent on sabotaging the partnership. In that case India has to communicate its assessment and wait and see whether Secretary Rice is able to discipline her bureaucracy and bring it on line. The second possibility is while the Bush-Rice team is sincere on the partnership, still based on their past experience they expect India to play a subordinate role and to toe the US line unquestioningly.

In that case our political leadership should make it clear that it is not on. While the US may not totally endorse the Indian demand for permanent membership of the Security Council it should be prepared to put up with India not endorsing any precipitate action by the US on the Iranian issue. Otherwise, the Indo-US relations will not be an equal partnership but one between a patron and a client.

The third possibility is the leadership has allowed some of its smart-Alec subordinates to test how much pressure can be applied on India and is still in the stage of learning about India. In that event the New York developments will be a useful learning exercise for the Bush-Rice Team. On our side the lesson to be learnt is that nothing in international relations can be taken for granted and there has to be continuous assessment of the moves of both our friends and foes.

Prima facie it looks as though, in the light of Dr Lubbers’ disclosures there is perhaps an exceedingly embarrassing story of CIA-A.Q. Khan proliferation linkage and General Musharraf is in a position to blackmail the US. This factor along with the thesis that there is no alternative to General Musharraf enables him to exercise the maximum leverage on the US. When both parties operate with such vulnerabilities one should not rule out things getting out of hand at any time.

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