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US Senator Ben Cardin
US Senator Ben Cardin

WASHINGTON: How would a strong relationship between the United States and India affect America’s relations with Pakistan?

Senator Ben Cardin’s question, asked at a recent hearing of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led to a long debate on this issue among US lawmakers, a senior State Department official and think-tank experts.

The hearing, called to review US-India relations, moved on to Pakistan when Senator David Perdue, a Republican member of the committee, asked Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal for an update on the Pakistan-India security issues and to share the State Department’s perspective on the relationship between the two countries.

Senator Cardin, the committee’s ranking Democrat, however, further expanded this debate when he asked the participants to help the panel “understand how the United States can strengthen its ties with India as it relates to our relationship with Pakistan”.

“Quite frankly, I don’t quite understand the full impact of that relationship,” he added.

Assistant Secretary Biswal enunciated the policy that the Obama administration borrowed from its predecessors: Pakistan and India need to resolve their bilateral issues on their own, the US can encourage them to stay engaged but it would not get involved.

“Clearly we have long encouraged India and Pakistan to engage in dialogues and to address some of the many issues that continue to be outstanding in that relationship,” she said.

“We have a very important relationship with each country and we seek to advance our interests with each country. We don’t see this as zero sum but we do recognise that for India and Pakistan there are a number of outstanding issues between both that would be benefited by dialogue.”

Ms Biswal also explained that countering and combating terrorism was “an important objective,” not just for India, Pakistan or Afghanistan but for the US as well.

“So these are areas that we try to support conversations across all of our bilateral relationships as well as pushing countries in the region to address it themselves,” she added.

She also emphasised the need to combat all terrorist groups active in the South Asian region, without any exception.

“We do believe that, increasingly, there is recognition that no kind of terrorist organisation will be acceptable, that you cannot differentiate between good terrorists and bad terrorists,” she said.

“That has been a stalwart tenant of our engagement in the region. And we do believe that we are starting to get that recognition back in at least the commitment that countries in the region are making to us,” she added.

But the US official also said that this commitment had to be translated into action. “We do need to see more in terms of actions in that space and we’ll continue to push on those issues,” she said.

Senator Cardin, while widening the debate, noted that the US had made a decision several decades ago to have a more strategic relationship with Pakistan.

“We have many issues with what Pakistan does, but we have a strategic partnership that’s critically important to our counter-terrorism activities,” he said. “As a result, there are economic issues between our two countries, including military issues that advance US interest.”

Turning to a group of experts the panel had invited to talk about US-India relations, Senator Cardin asked: “How do we handle Pakistan in our relationship with India? Because it seems to me it’s almost a subject we don’t talk about.”

The lawmaker also noted that his home state, Maryland, had a large Pakistani-American community and an equally large Indian-American community. “And, quite frankly, they’re much friendlier than the countries’ representatives are,” he observed.

“So, how would you recommend the United States handle its relationship with Pakistan as it relates to India?” he asked.

Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the US Council on Foreign Relations, called this “one of the most challenging questions” for dealing with US policy towards the region.

“Pakistan, in the past several years, has missed a number of opportunities to allow itself to better its ties with India, and to allow itself to open its economy further to some of the opportunities that its strategic location affords it,” she said.

Ms Ayers, an Indian-American, blamed Pakistan for keeping South Asia as one of the economically least integrated regions in the world. She said that while India granted Pakistan the most favoured nation status in 1996, Pakistan did not reciprocate and that’s why the two countries still had a “very limited relationship”.

Commenting on her effort to present India’s perspective, Senator Cardin said: “I understand that Pakistan has issues”, but asked her to explain what should the US be asking from India “in regards to how do we handle Pakistan in our relationship with India?”

“I think we should be asking Pakistan to do more on A, the trade openings, and B, the counter-terrorism questions,” Ms Ayers responded.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2016

Comments (58) Closed

Truth Be Told Jun 01, 2016 02:56pm

Pakistan will never change where as India is changing for good everyday! I do feel sorry for Pakistani nationals who are the ones missing out due to isolation more than anyone!

Abdulla Hussain Jun 01, 2016 07:33pm

Like the global climate the world power scenario is also changing, never thought in the wildest dream that India will wishfully drift apart from Russia but this has happened. Russia & China have come close. American power is being challenged by the Russians in Syria. Cuba & america becoming friends and so many other changes. I see no alarming situation developing with Indian honeymoon with america. Pakistan will also change its strategy, I can visualize China & Russia becoming key players in the Muslim world soon. I think it is in the interest of america to understand the benefits of not distancing itself from Pakistan, the key word is equilibrium in maintaining relationship Pakistan & India

AXH Jun 01, 2016 07:35pm

The US relationship with Pakistan can only be described as a marriage of convenience. The US only needs Pakistan when it wants to use Pakistan's territory for its own purposes. The Pakistani political leadership of the past and the present (if we can really call that a leadership at all) has always preferred to cave into the US demands and pressure rather than standing up for the good of the country. The USSR invaded AFG in the late 70s for no reason. The US saw an opportunity to avenge its defeat in Vietnam and poured in all the money it could to bog the Soviets down in AFG. The USSR was defeated, the US succeeded in breaking up the Soviet Union. The US pulled out of AFG without giving any consideration to the aftermaths of the post-war scenario in AFG. Refugees poured into Pakistan from AFG and do did the illegal arms and drugs. If only our leadership had put the country first, we would not be in this situation that we are in today.

Ikramullah Jun 01, 2016 07:34pm

Finally, no body believes in Pakistan

sri1 Jun 01, 2016 07:34pm

By the looks of it, the establishment will never let go of the naive anti-India security state policies and the same conspiracy rhetoric to convince a wide swathe of Pakistani civilians of Indian complicity in everything that is wrong with and goes wrong in Pakistan. For India and the USA, it boils down to getting China (the very final friend of Pakistan) to realign its relationship with Pakistan and make it unacceptable to cross certain limits.

Shobhit Jun 01, 2016 07:53pm

@Abdulla Hussain Pray tell me, how exactly can equilibrium be maintained between two countries, one of which is literally living on doles given out by middle east aristocrats and WB and one which stands as one of the growing MAJOR economies of the world. Having a nuclear bomb in one hand and a bowl in the other does not really make you a player in a globalised world, does it ?

Vijesh Jun 01, 2016 07:54pm

@Abdulla Hussain India and russia are allies. They share defence, nuclear, strategic partnership. We have always been non aligned. So india aNd russia will never drift apart. Russia and china have always been close which has never affected it's relatinship with india. Instead they formed a new group called RIC (russia-india-China) for asian matters coperation.

Srinivasulu Mekala Jun 01, 2016 08:02pm

Is there a single woman or man who thinks it her or his business to see Pakistan a peaceful prosperous country? No. Every general, bureaucrat, politician, businessman, diplomat and technocrat made billions and stashed the money outside the country. India and Pakistan will never be friendly neighbours. Fate is strange.

Nadeem Jun 01, 2016 08:05pm

Not surprised to see both the ladies answering the questions are of Indian origin. They are sure to present the Indian perspective on the issues.

The US should be intelligent enough not to leave its foreign policy in the hands of these Indians!

For instance where's the mention of Kashmir that is the root cause of problems between Pakistan and India and that overshadows every other aspect of their mutual relationship. The two ladies very conveniently swallowed Kashmir issue because they are actually Indians, not Americans.

Harisingh Jun 01, 2016 08:08pm

The Pakistani military establishment has to prove itself to the Arabs. The last thing they want is making friendly relations with India.

Aseem Jun 01, 2016 08:15pm

Pakistan has for long now gone completely overboard on Kashmir. It's claims and convoluted arguments convince no one. As a nation it has now reached a dangerous point of no return. There is a pressing need to delegitimize it's traditional position on Kashmir and move on.

Rahul Jun 01, 2016 08:17pm

Pakistan military will never agree to normalizing relation with India because it would mean that it will not be able to call all the shots in Pakistan, taking a back seat to the civilian government.

zulfi.khan Jun 01, 2016 09:01pm

The way India is progressing it will soon overtake China. They are are controlling world's technology and that holds the key to growth and prosperity. All the major US tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Tesla are inundated with Indians who are very capable engineers. Agreed they too have challenges but they are progressing and its clearly visible. Bonus is the amazing leadership of Mr Modi. In comparison, we are going down leaps and bounds in the development index. Now even Bangladesh has more exports than us and even bigger foreign reserves. Its high time we dump kashmir issue and mend fences with India.

Deepak Kumar Jun 01, 2016 09:09pm

@Nadeem Kashmir is not an issue for India and rest of the world. You keep harping that...

Fazal Karim Jun 01, 2016 09:10pm

Why America does not understand that Kashmir is the core issue which led to three wars, stationing of five lacs strong Indian army in a small state with less than ten million population and human rights violations. The issue cab be solved with Kashmir remaining in India but granting autonomous status to the state as was granted and practiced fifties. World has changed, Britain agreed to let Scotland be independent if people so desired. Similar thing happened in Canada. For the sake of peace and prosperity of people of the two countries, India should take steps in this direction. America can help by putting moral pressure on India.

Uday Kulkarni Jun 01, 2016 09:21pm

The US politicians are finally having a discussion of the impact with India & these kind of debates will certainly provide an understanding of Indian perspective to US congressmen. The USA-Pakistan relationship is decades old related to cold war times when USA was arming Pakistan but now the global scenario has changed & to achieve their futuristic goals they have to forge far better relations with India, not just politically or militarily, but also economically. US have now realized that any arms supply to Pakistan to fight terrorism is creating a conflict of interests with India & hindering their achievement of future goals. Interfering in Indo-Pak conflict will only backfire, thus, ultimately it WILL become a zero sum game for US. India is ensuring of making it that way for USA. Better relations with India will NOT come free for USA just as India is forced to sacrifice strong relations with Russia when US is asking India to sign Indian ocean maritime treaty to counter China.

N.Sid Jun 01, 2016 09:30pm

@Truth Be Told we are truly impressed by your Knowledge about Pakistan. You seems to know more about the country Pakistan than people living here do.

Nadeem Jun 01, 2016 09:39pm

@Deepak Kumar Well for Pakistan and Kashmiris it is the core issue! Doesn't matter for us what India thinks. Rest of the world goes by its interests. With you today....with us tomorrow. At the end it is the will of Kashmiri people that would matter. India cannot keep them subjugated forever by using 700,000 troops.

Ankit Jun 01, 2016 09:41pm

Although, there is a sound rational behind Pakistan's policy of not integrating its economy with India; In any bilateral trade agreement a large economy always dominates on the week ones.This policy,however,in the long run could be detrimental. Nuks has maid war impossible but economic integration could make war unimaginable. For example India and China has a bilateral trade of more than 100 billion dollars. so,in other words they are so dependent on each other that war between them is unimaginable. A strong nation always wants any discussion on longstanding issues to be bilateral. So that it can dominate the week nation. This is why India advocates for bilateral settlement while Pakistan wants to Internationalise the issue. Indian nationalism or more specifically the idea of India is so strong that Pakistan should drop the dream of destabilising India. It should engage India in trade but cautiously.

Nadeem Jun 01, 2016 09:41pm

@Rahul in fact the people of Pakistan would never agree for normalization of relations with India unless India leaves aside its hegemonic complex.

RJM Jun 01, 2016 10:02pm

@Abdulla Hussain There can and should never be an equilibrium in how the world maintains relationship between the two countries because the two countries are not similar, they have entirely different profiles and personalities. The world would maintain seperate relationship with the two countries based on their merit and individualities.

INDIA FIRST Jun 01, 2016 10:03pm

@Nadeem feelings are mutual.

INDIA FIRST Jun 01, 2016 10:05pm

@Nadeem and you couldn't do anything in 68 years and you won't be able to do anything in future.

Anuj Jun 01, 2016 10:06pm

@Nadeem keep trying forever.

N.S Jun 01, 2016 10:07pm

@zulfi.khan You are really a funny man. Or was it sarcasm.

Anuj Jun 01, 2016 10:06pm

@Fazal Karim dream on! China won't let go Tibet, hong-kong and Taiwan and neither we'll let go kashmir.

Samrat Jun 01, 2016 10:07pm

@Fazal Karim you can't take it on your own and we won't let anyone else take it no mstter what.

Samrat Jun 01, 2016 10:08pm

@zulfi.khan Explain it to your compatriots.

Jayakumar Jun 01, 2016 10:13pm

@Nadeem I am sorry but who cares about relations with Pakistan,this topic is far below on the agenda list.

poker face Jun 01, 2016 10:17pm

@Nadeem your dream is not going to materialize . You can only eat what is on your plate . No new world order can afford to ignore India and adopt Pakistan . You just have to wake up from your slumber . It is in your best interest . But if you are hell bent upon putting all your eggs in China's basket , then what if China drops the basket , you will lose all your eggs . I sincerely advise you to spread them wisely .

Mumbai indian Jun 01, 2016 10:21pm

Kashmir issue is an eternal deadlock. Neither country will vacate an inch of land under their control. There are people who understand this and move on to create more prosperity for themselves. Then there are some who will stay attached to this issue at the cost or development. Pakistan seems to have more of latter. Strong ties with India, of course as equals, is the surest way to bring peace and prosperity in the region.

Sami Arshad Jun 01, 2016 10:20pm

Well MS Ayres should be expected to ask Pakistan to do more, I do however agree with her when she says we need to open up on trade but being a small country we are not in a position to compete with giant Indian conglomerates, it can possibly lead to unemployment which is already rife in Pakistan.

Having said that all these things can be resolved through dialgue, I guess MS Ayrers needs to find out who has been shying away from it.

romi Jun 01, 2016 10:28pm

come what india will keep growing while pakistan as usual will keep thinking talking & dreaming of kashmir

sri1 Jun 01, 2016 10:32pm

@Nadeem "The two ladies very conveniently swallowed Kashmir issue because they are actually Indians, not Americans"

Yes, let's play along and assume that those Americans are closet Indians or at least India-supporters like the dozens in power in both democratic and Republican ranks. If not for them, we can have real anti-Pak supporters like Christine Fair, Dana Rohrenbaker etc. From USA or world perspective, K-issue? What Kashmir issue?

Hamid Jun 01, 2016 10:32pm

@Nadeem it does matter what India thinks on Kashmir. Becoz its our Integral part and it doesn't matter what Pakistan thinks our any other country thinks we know how to defend our sovereignity and devolop at the same time. any attempt of interference will be dealt with Iron hand it is better for you if you learn from History otherwise it will repeat itself

Hamid Jun 01, 2016 10:37pm

@Nadeem we don't really care what Pakistanis like. Do what suits you and we will do what suits us

Robert Jun 01, 2016 10:44pm

@Nadeem You are absolutely wrong, Nadeem. Everyone, excluding tribal people, who are Americans came from somewhere. Those two ladies are Americans and they or their parents immigrated from India. Now, like everyone else, they are Americans. Consider this: you are a loyal Pakistani and so you should be. Your parents/grand parents were Indians and they were definitely loyal Indians during their time until they moved to Pakistan. Being loyal is a character trait. Those two ladies in the US Government are loyal Americans. By your analysis, they should be called less than Americans and that is not the case.

Your analysis reflects who you are rather than who they are.

Ali Jun 01, 2016 10:48pm

@Nadeem Very well said. Both of them essentially presented the Indian view point in Pakistan. They may hold American but they are Indian at heart.

john Jun 01, 2016 11:32pm

@Fazal Karim Come on do a referendum in Balochistan

saqib Jun 01, 2016 11:56pm

when your Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia is foremost Indian and then a American citizen how can we expect any balanced approach towards Pakistan. This issue should be raised by any Pak Govt official when they are made to deal with such people.

Milind Jun 01, 2016 11:59pm

@Sami Arshad You are trading with China aren't you ? You also are allowing them to take over major parts of your country.

There is already trade taking place, but its indirect where third parties like Dubai benefit. There are also several items that you purchase from outside which cost you more as compared to buying from India.

Secondly, India for several years has been asking Pakistan for a trade route to central Asia, where India will Pay Pakistan transit fee, the traffic would have driven employment in Pakistan, additional tax revenues for Pakistan and infra development around it.

saqib Jun 01, 2016 11:59pm

The only way Pakistan can make India give overdue attention to the Kashmir issue is if there is an armed insurrection again in Kashmir. Pakistan should be covertly destabilising Indian as much as possible so then they can take such issues seriously and agree to meaningful talks when they know they are getting hurt.

khakan Jun 02, 2016 01:16am

Both Biswal and Ayers are Indian background Americans. Both are presenting Indian view and not American Strategic interest. India is committing terrorism in Kashmir for decades. It is ignoring UN resolutions. Prime Minister Modi, is subservient to the RSS. India has dozen or so consulates on the Afghan Pakistan boarder. India talks about tactical nuclear war and 2nd strike capability and the list is long. Any Pakistani who thinks India is interested in anything other than crippling Pakistan needs to think again.

Lafanga Jun 02, 2016 01:17am

Simply put US wants Indian hegemony in the region to counter China. This is the American policy now BUT there is one big road block to this i.e. Pakistan. As long as there is a strong Pakistan military, This US-India dream wont come to fruition. India wants Pakistan isolated and subjugated which is why they will NEVER want to see a prosperous Pakistan. Look at their state policy. Its clear as daylight but our PM for his own business ventures want to overlook this.

Lafanga Jun 02, 2016 01:25am

@Robert AIPAC is made up of so called "loyal Americans" but all their sympathies are for Israel. You know what I am talking about. India is penetrating the American govt along the same lines. Just like AIPAC has well being of Israel as the highest priority and not American, same thing is true with Indian Americans in some positions. A time will come when both Israel and India will bring America down to its knees to promote Israeli/Indian interests. Wait and watch.

Punch Jun 02, 2016 01:57am

So now we want the Americans to decide how Pak and India should relate to each other?

brar Jun 02, 2016 04:25am

@Sami Arshad Who is giant India or China, you can compete with India not China they will surely kill your cottage industry which is already in doll drums .

Alam Jun 02, 2016 04:45am

Peace is the only solution of this mess friends...

suhail Jun 02, 2016 06:27am

i am from indain occupied kashmir and I know how pple of kashmir hates indain forces there, if they cliam it is yours, then tell me why u have seven lakh indain forces there, you have to leave kashmir one day, does not matter whether pakistan will support us or not. When u got freedom from british why can't we? India will bankrupt itself in kashmir cox of maintaing large forces there and shy in eliminating poverty in others parts of india.... They are illegal occupants of kashmir and we will never accept them and their designs and we will fight till last men....till last blood drop.... but we will get our freedom back....we proved in the last 68 years, they can't bury our voice.....

Pokpok Jun 02, 2016 06:30am

After reading the article I came to one conclusion. Politicians everywhere are the same. Too much flowery talk but at the end, as a layman, you cannot make heads or tails out of it.

Donny Jun 02, 2016 07:49am

Soon an Indian American will become the US president. Just a matter of time.

Zak Jun 02, 2016 10:19am

The lawmaker also noted that his home state, Maryland, had a large Pakistani-American community and an equally large Indian-American community. “And, quite frankly, they’re much friendlier than the countries’ representatives are,” he observed.

The only reasons Indians behave in Maryland is because US is the third party here who oversee the two. That is why third party involvement needed to resolve kashmir, But india runs like a squirrel from the mention of kashmir.

Khalid Latif Jun 02, 2016 10:21am

Silly question, isn't it? India-US relations have nothing to do with Pakistan. In fact Pakistan hardly matters. However, since the strategic interests of the US and India exist, in Pakistan, they may collectively work together to achieve them. This will and is, happening already, without India and the US getting closer. Is it very difficult to understand? The Afghan Taliban should start their conflict in Pakistan, to destabilise it. The Pakistan's neucliar power should be desolved, some how. The Chinese corridor and Gawader project must not materialise. I hope it is understood.

Saman Jun 02, 2016 12:51pm

@Abdulla Hussain Spot on!. Obama's recent visit to Japan during the times when Abe is bent upon changing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which would dramatically change the geopolitical scenario across the globe, is a vital sign of America's changing strategy towards Asia Pacific region. China and Russia are not only oblivious of this move. The world politics is getting ready for another major shift after almost a centuary.

putar Jun 02, 2016 05:23pm

Every thing does not have a security angle.

Asif Mir Jun 03, 2016 07:53am

@Zak You are so wrong. Pakistanis in US is a much smaller community than Indian community and average Pakistani community income is much lower than the Indians. So you get the equation, why a US senator will not pick the issue in favor of Pakistan.

dd Jun 03, 2016 07:26pm

Not really sure why we are compared a country with probably billion and a half people to country of 200 million. Should we be happy at the fact that a huge nation like india competes with a smaller nation like Pakistan or should we be happy at the fact that Pakistan, being 1/6th the size of india, is almost able to compete with that big of a nation. I guess either way for Pakistanis it is a win/win and happy/happy situation.

Salil Chowdhury Jun 03, 2016 08:33pm

@saqib "This issue should be raised by any Pak Govt official" - who will allow them to enter the building first.