WASHINGTON: India is a global partner while Pakistan is a valuable partner in a sensitive region, says the US State Department while explaining its relations with the two South Asian nations.
“India is an invaluable partner, not just in the region but as it relates to a lot of the United States’ shared priorities across the world,” said the department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel while commenting on Washington’s ties with New Delhi.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar “remain in close touch as they need to”.
In response to Dawn’s query on US-Pakistan relations, another State Department official said: “The United States values our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests.”
State Dept official says Washington has always viewed prosperous, democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests
The official explained that internal political changes in Pakistan do not impact Washington’s desire to maintain its relationship with Pakistan as it “remains unchanged”.
In recent statements, US officials have insisted that they no longer see Pakistan from India or Afghanistan’s perspective.
Instead, they acknowledge Pakistan as an important country of more than 220 million people, with nuclear technology and borders with some key nations like India, China, Iran and Afghanistan.
‘New Asian power’
India, however, has been placed in a different league. On Sunday, when India assumed the G20 presidency, CNN noted that the group’s “criticism of Russia shows the rise of a new Asian power. And it isn’t China”, it’s India.
Days before the G20 summit in Indonesia, Secretary Blinken met Mr Jaishankar in Phnom Penh and said in a tweet that he discussed “ongoing efforts to expand our partnership and mitigate the effects of Russia’s war on Ukraine” with the Indian minister. “The US supports India’s G20 presidency,” he added.
The United States is one of the founding members of this group, along with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. China, Russia, India, and others joined later.
India will host the next leaders’ summit of this group of industrialised nations in New Delhi in September 2023.
In its updated page on India, the State Department notes that “the US-India strategic partnership is founded on shared values including a commitment to democracy and upholding the rules-based international system”.
The United States and India “have shared interests in promoting global security, stability, and economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity”, the department adds.
In a similar page on Pakistan, the State Department says that the United States “works closely with Pakistan on a wide array of issues ranging from energy, trade and investment, health, clean energy and combating the climate crisis, to Afghanistan stabilisation and counterterrorism”.
The United States “has been one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Pakistan and remains Pakistan’s largest export market,” it adds.
In describing its relationship with India, the department stresses the importance of the global role it expects New Delhi to play while Pakistan is seen as an important ally in combating terrorism and stabilising Afghanistan.
‘Divergent views on China’
In a recent report published by the Hudson Institute, 10 US scholars of South Asian affairs noted that several aspects of the US-Pakistan relationship had changed over the last decade.
“Most importantly, a US-India entente has emerged, and a peer rivalry between China and the US is developing,” they added, underlining how the US desire to contain China had strengthened its ties with India.
The authors also note that “a geostrategic competition with Russia and China that involves Pakistan and Afghanistan … may be an opportune moment to lay the foundations for a sustainable US-Pakistan relationship”.
They suggest that a modest, pragmatic relationship between the US and Pakistan, one not based on exaggerated expectations on both sides, would involve understanding that Pakistan and the US will continue to see Afghanistan through different lenses but can cooperate to maintain peace in that country and alleviate its people’s suffering.
Besides, attitudes towards India at both the elite and popular levels in Pakistan will, at best, change slowly.
Moreover, public opinion in both the United States and Pakistan acts as a constraint on bilateral relations.
They say there is little the United States can do to induce Pakistan to change its overall strategic calculus, which is based on Pakistan’s understanding of its security environment.
They also acknowledge that “the US and Pakistan have divergent views on China”.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2022