United States foreign policy commentators have often said post- 9/11 that their country blundered by walking away from Afghanistan and Pakistan after the Soviet Union was defeated. The observation of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that her country’s policy towards Pakistan “over the last 30 years has been incoherent” is a quasi-official acceptance that the US’s on-and-off courtship has become a major obstacle in its present policies regarding Pakistan.
It has definitely contributed to a Pakistani narrative that the US used them to defeat the Russians, sanctioned them for their nuclear programme, and then declared India the South Asian nation with a future. Clinton accepts some of that but hints Pakistan was hardly a wide-eyed babe in the woods. New Delhi would agree. Islamabad repeatedly bandwagoned with the US, China and terrorists to get a military edge over India. As the A.Q. Khan network revealed, Pakistan’s nuclear programme deserved to be more than sanctioned. Superficially, a similar pattern can be seen today. Pakistan is making intermittent stands against Taliban incursions, but insists it cannot fight without billions in funds and arms. Most Indians will find this perturbing. Given today’s circumstances, India should take a more relaxed view of the US relationship with Pakistan. First, a Taliban takeover of a nuclear-armed Pakistan represents a threat to India that goes off the scale. Second, Indian policy needs to take into account evidence that its neighbour’s ruling establishment is increasingly delusional and paranoid. Third, the US is probably the only country with the wherewithal to buttress Pakistan against the Taliban and change its polity for the better. Finally, a key reason the US is finding it difficult to extract genuine cooperation from Pakistan is that Islamabad does not trust a country whose past policy was so driven by short-term tactical goals.
This leads to the broad conclusion that it is in India’s interest for the US to commit itself to be a confidence-building partnership with Pakistan. And so long as they are counter-insurgency related, arms supplies will have to part of this policy. President Barack Obama spoke of “the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” In the present circumstances, the connection also includes the future of India.