Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Mar 2018 10:52:06

THE United States (US) is fooling itself by asserting that there is a change in the behaviour of Pakistan as regards fight against terrorism after President Mr. Donald Trump blasted Islamabad for its failure to adhere to its promises on the issue. US Secretary of Defence Mr. Jim Mattis has claimed that this change in Pakistan’s behaviour has become visible after the announcement of South Asia Policy by President Trump. This assertion is without substance and the Trump Administration is subscribing to it because it suits the American political interest in Asia in the light of an emerging China-Pakistan alliance. Because the US does not want to allow Pakistan to get firmly embedded into the Chinese influence, it is now trying to win Pakistan back. Hence this latest assertion that has no strength of reality.

It has been proved time and again that the American engagement with Pakistan is of an altogether different variety. The US has always treated Pakistan as a long-term ally and not just a fair-weather friend. The US does not mind that Pakistan has all the attributes of a Rogue State and that Islamabad has often presented Pakistan as an eternally Client State all willing to offer itself to be used by others. So, in order to keep Pakistan under reasonable check, the US has often resorted to punishing Pakistan mildly and even withholding its aid from time to time, perhaps in the hope that Pakistan would start behaving well. Pakistan, too, has understood this process and has not shied away from blackmailing the US into submission on whatever terms.

This is the substance of American global realpolitik as far as South Asia is concerned. Because of the Chinese component, the Americans are unwilling to sacrifice their long-standing association with Pakistan whose leaders have often helped serve the US interests in every manner possible. This time, too, the Americans are willing to accommodate Pakistan once again as they realise the criticality of keeping a finger on the South Asian pie. For them, China is too big an issue to be ignored. And in order to achieve their geo-political goals as regards China, the Americans are willing to allow Pakistan some concessions. The statement of Secretary of Defence Mr. Jim Mattis is one ingredient of those concessions as part of diplomatic expediency.

India has not missed these details, of course. It has never misinterpreted the American stances from time to time. Even as Mr. Donald Trump announced his South Asia Policy, India welcomed the toughness of American approach, but was cautious enough to adopt a wait-and-watch method. For India, the experience of the past has been good enough to stay alert on the American approach to Pakistan and China. The Indian leadership has often realised that American stance towards Pakistan has to be accepted with a pinch of salt. The latest statement by Mr. Jim Mattis only vindicates the cautious approach by India. It also brings to fore once again the very unpredictable and highly unreliable nature of South Asian policy of the Americans.

As for India, Pakistan is far from having changed. The latest spurt of terrorist activity in Kashmir shows that Pakistan is as engaged in promoting and sponsoring terrorism now as it has always been. India knows it out of experience that Pakistan has not changed at all. Much to the contrary, its engagement with terror has increased, given the current experience in Kashmir. Terror groups have been operating out of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir all the time to attack Indian installations including military bases. It is because of the Pakistani sponsorship that the terror groups have found a new strength to choose Indian military targets for their regular attacks. This does not show any change of behaviour as described by US Secretary of Defence Mr. Jim Mattis. Obviously, the United States appears eager to fool itself on the dicey issue.