If New Delhi has been nervous about US President Barack Obamas ideas on South Asian security,it now turns out that Islamabad is neuralgic. On Obamas very first day in office,the White House announced that it will hold Pakistan accountable for the rapidly worsening situation in its borderlands with Afghanistan. Top officials from Pakistan,including its envoy in Washington and a senior general in Rawalpindi,have urged the new administration to be patient. All indications,however,are that Obama,unlike his predecessor,George W. Bush,cannot afford to cut much slack for Islamabad. Nor can he remain blind to the two-faced policy of the Pakistan army. Unlike Bush who gave away billions of dollars to Islamabad without asking too many difficult questions,Obama has no option but to hold Pakistans feet to the fire.
In the foreign policy agenda identified by the Obama White House,Pakistan and Afghanistan are at the very top. This should be no surprise since the principal threat to American national security today comes from the lawless borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan,where the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been resurgent,taking more and more territory under their control. As he indicated throughout the presidential campaign,Obama now proposes to shift American military resources from Iraq to Afghanistan,which he believes is the central front in the American war on terror. Obama is also convinced that Afghanistan cant be stabilised without getting the Pakistan army to play straight. It is in this context that we must see Obamas approach towards Pakistan and South Asia.
If New Delhi stops viewing Obamas policy through the prism of its past fears,it will find that the unfolding dynamic between Washington and Islamabad offers many diplomatic opportunities. America faces an extraordinary threat from the badlands in the northwestern parts of the subcontinent and Obama desperately needs to succeed. This in turn opens the door for India to offer substantive political and security cooperation to Washington in stabilising the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead of opposing Obamas perceived linkage between Afghanistan and Kashmir,India should be bold enough to turn it on its head. In signalling the readiness to clinch the recent back-channel negotiations with Pakistan on Kashmir,India can make it easier for Washington to turn the heat on Islamabad to eliminate all sources of extremism and terrorism from its soil.