US and them

By NT Bureau Published on Oct 16, 2017 03:57 PM IST

The US has been flexing its muscles with Pakistan of late, essentially to pressurise Islamabad to deal strongly with the Haqqani network which it sees as a terror threat to the Americans.

The impression in India that the Trump administration would force the Pakistanis to close down terror training camps and to put a lid on infiltration of terrorists into India through Kashmir seems utterly overdrawn. The recent visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif to the US has chastened him somewhat to the need to satisfy the US insofar as US self-interest is concerned.

In that context, the US administration is bound to be ingratiated to Islamabad as a result of Pakistani help in the release from captivity of an American-Canadian couple taken captive in 2012 in Afghanistan by the Haqqani network. American Caitlan Coleman and Canadian Joshua Boyle were kidnapped near the Pak-Afghan border and five years after their kidnapping were freed after Washington turned the heat on Khwaja Asif during his US visit following up on warnings – including some by Trump himself — that the US would take punitive action against Pakistan for its continued sponsorship of terror.

The steps the Americans threatened of were aid cutoff, resumption of drone strikes and in an extreme scenario designation of Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror.

It was as a result of these threats that Asif announced on return from US that Pakistan was ready for a joint operation with the US to destroy the Haqqani network. The Pakistan cave-in has come at a time when Pakistan’s economy is on the verge of collapse with devaluation in the offi ng.

The Pakistanis are hopeful that with the release of the kidnapped couple, Trump would be pleased because he would score brownie points with his people.

More such releases of kidnapped Americans could follow and that would lead Trump to turn his eyes away from perpetration of Pakistani terror against India. Besides, this would cajole the US into releasing more money to cash-starved Pakistan. Even with the limited honouring of the US deal with Pakistan, President Trump was elated enough to say: ‘This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes…….’

The Americans have considerable business interests in India now and there is huge potential for growth. India must leverage that to subtly signal to the Trump administration that if it does not get Pakistan to close terror training camps and to stop infiltration by terrorists into Kashmir, India would have to re-think or soft-pedal over some of its business deals.

Business lobbyists in the US could be duly activated for the purpose. The hypocrisy of the American position has always been there for all to see but Indian governments have been scared to leverage Indian strengths. It is time we start using our economic muscle to good effect.