Cautious Optimism in India
About US Suspension of Aid to Pakistan
January 12, 2018
There is cautious optimism in
India about the U.S. suspension of about $ 1.9 billion in
security aid to Pakistan to pressure it to take action against
terror groups. But analysts in New Delhi say the move is
unlikely to prompt Islamabad to stop providing safe havens to
groups that are active in Kashmir such as the Hizbul Mujahideen.
India’s reaction to Washington’s tough new posture has been
muted, with only a brief statement from a junior minister
following President Donald Trump’s New Year tweet that Pakistan
had rewarded past U.S. aid with “nothing but lies & deceit.”
“It has abundantly, abundantly vindicated India’s stand as far
as terrorism is concerned and as far as Pakistan’s role in
perpetrating terrorism is concerned,” according to Jitendra
Washington’s warnings in recent days that it will ratchet up the
pressure if Islamabad fails to take "decisive action" against
terror groups has won quiet appreciation in New Delhi, which has
long complained that it is a victim of attacks by terror groups
that find sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
“It is too early to judge what he [President Trump] might do,
but the perspective is fresh and new,” said Arvind Gupta,
director at the research organization Vivekananda International
Foundation in New Delhi.
At the same time, many in India feel that Washington’s main
concern will be to ensure that Islamabad takes action against
groups that target Afghanistan, such as the Haqqani network and
the Afghan Taliban because its primary focus is on stabilizing
Afghanistan. There is also some skepticism about how far
Washington will go in imposing punitive measures on Islamabad
due to its reliance on Pakistan for access to the war torn
‘Wait and watch’
Analysts say New Delhi is in a “wait and watch” mode to see how
the new policy will unfold in coming months.
“Would they [the United States] really proceed further, number
one? Number two, whether it will take the Indian front also into
consideration and stick to it,” questions Sukh Deo Muni, a South
Asia expert at New Delhi’s Institute of Defense Studies and
There has been increasing sensitivity in Washington to India’s
concerns on terrorism following a closer strategic embrace
between the two countries – last August the U.S. administration
named the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit as a global terrorist group
and added its chief, Syed Salahuddin, to its list of global
terrorists. Hizbul is one of the frontline groups active in
Kashmir, the territory divided between the two countries.
And in an indication that India’s concerns are being taken
seriously as the United States firms up its new policy on
Pakistan, the U.S. ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, said on
Thursday that Washington has made it clear it will not tolerate
“cross border terrorism or terrorist safe havens anywhere.”
However, when asked why the terror groups active against India
were not named during the announcement of suspension of aid to
Pakistan, Juster simply said, "Pakistan is important too for the
situation in Afghanistan" and stability will not be possible
without its contribution.
are also some worries in India that continuing U.S. pressure
will push Islamabad further towards China and expand Beijing’s
footprint in the South Asian region – an outcome New Delhi does
not want to see. “We are already seeing that the Chinese are
probably going to set up a naval base in Jiwani (Pakistan). You
have already seen that China, Pakistan and Afghanistan have
formed a new grouping,” said Gupta, referring to the first
dialogue of the foreign ministers from the three countries
hosted by Beijing in December.
Still, amid increasing frustration in India over efforts to make
headway with Islamabad on combating terrorism, the new U.S.
policy represents a ray of hope. Formal talks between the two
rivals have been virtually frozen for two years but the national
security advisers of the two countries met in Bangkok last month
to hold a dialogue, which New Delhi said focused on terrorism.
But officials and analysts admit that there is little progress.
"We’ve had a hard line policy for some time and it has not
really yielded results, because we are still having attacks
across the border,” points out Manoj Joshi at New Delhi’s
Observer Research Foundation. “So if the U.S. gets into the
picture, the U.S. has much more clout than us and is able to do
something about it, it is obviously something New Delhi would be
happy with. As far as India is concerned, it’s a plus for us.”