If the Pakistanis have any hope of getting arms against India, President Barack Obama squashed it very early in his presidency telling his Pakistani counterpart Asif Zardari not to expect it.
“We do not begrudge you being concerned about India,” he told Zardari in May 2009, “…we don’t want to be part of arming you against India, so let me very clear about that.”
Details of the meeting, which took place in the Oval office within a few months of Obama taking office, were among the many revelations in a new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward out on Monday.
Titled Obama’s Wars it has been one of the most widely awaited books after Washington Post ran extracts from it showing the Obama administration was bitterly divided over the Afghanistan war.
The book is mostly about the war in Afghanistan, and predictably lands up talking a lot about Pakistan and India and the US’s efforts to deal with the nuclear-powered neighbours.
To Obama’s remarks, Zardari replied, “We’re trying to change our overview but it’s not going to happen overnight.” But Zardari was soon found too ineffective, having given in to Pakistan’s traditional power centre — the army, to effect that change.
A view soon gained ground — coming from the intelligence — that “Afghanistan would not get straightened out until there was a stable relationship between Pakistan and India”.
And at one such meet where this theory was put forth forcefully by Peter Lavoy, deputy chief of Department of National Intelligence, Obama said, “We need to move aggressively on India-Pakistan issues.”
The book says that soon after news broke of the Mumbai attacks, George W. Bush’s first instructions were to prevent a war between India and Pakistan. “You guys get planning and do what you have to do to prevent a war between Pakistan and India,” Bush told his aides.
After the attack, US assured everyone Pakistan was not involved. “The CIA later received reliable intelligence that the ISI was directly involved in the training for Mumbai,” it says.