Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington and his meeting with US President Barack Obama produced at best modest outcomes for Islamabad, notwithstanding the howls of protest in Delhi.
Firstly, there were no talks as New Delhi feared (after the Washington Post sent up a hot air balloon) on a civilian nuclear deal, similar to the India-US one. Though this has been a demand by Pakistan since the days of Musharraf, the US simply does not trust Islamabad or its generals or its civilian rulers enough to conclude a deal with it involving nuclear energy, even for civilian purposes.
An announcement that the US proposes to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan is not all that it seems to be, as the proposal still has to go through the US Congress, where it could well be shot down. The Obama Administration is yet to notify the Congress on the proposed sale.
India has railed at the mention of Kashmir in the joint statement issued after the Obama-Sharif talks. To quote the joint statement: “The two leaders expressed concern over violence along the Line of Control, and noted their support for confidence-building measures and effective mechanisms that are acceptable to both parties. The leaders emphasized the importance of a sustained and resilient dialogue process between the two neighbors aimed at resolving all outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir, through peaceful means and working together to address mutual concerns of India and Pakistan regarding terrorism.”
But what the statement actually underlines is the bilateral nature of the issue by urging a dialogue process between the two parties concerned. Sharif had wanted UN monitoring of the ceasefire. He also shared dossiers with allegations of an Indian hand in terrorism in Pakistan, seeking to involve the US as a referee. While the joint statement notes “mutual concerns of terrorism”, it says both sides should work out ways of addressing these and all other outstanding issues, including Kashmir, through bilateral dialogue.
The US preoccupation at the moment is with a dignified closure to its role in Afghanistan, for which it needs Pakistan’s help.It needs Islamabad to rein in its proxies, and bring the Taliban’s new leadership to the table for talks with the Afghan government. The joint statement issued after the talks flags U.S concerns about Pakistan’s proxies in Afghanistan and the wider region – these are also India’s enemies – naming both the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
From India’s point of view, this is possibly the first time that the LeT has been named in a US-Pakistan joint statement, specifically committing a Pakistani Prime Minister to “Pakistan’s resolve to take effective action against United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and its affiliates, as per its international commitments and obligations under UN Security Council resolutions and the Financial Action Task Force”.
India has objected to the US support for Pakistan’s fund raising efforts for the Diamer Bhasha dam in Gilgit Baltistan saying it opposes any infrastructure building activity in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
The objection only underlines the importance of holding talks with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. If talks have not taken place on Kashmir since 2008, it is because India wants to first discuss terrorism with Pakistan.