INDIA: A sense of vindication as U.S.-Pakistan relations deteriorate


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That’s the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, message from India these days as it watches U.S. relations with Pakistan deteriorate.

For years, much of the world viewed India-Pakistan relations through a tit-for-tat lens. The wary neighbors, born of a wrenching 1947 partition, have fought three wars and numerous skirmishes, raced unabashedly to develop nuclear weapons targeting each other and traded accusations till the (sacred) cows come home.


The peacock-like strutting of their respective soldiers at the Wagah border crossing. The 30-minute international time difference they’ve insisted on. Even their declared independence minutes apart to avoid sharing a national day. The sometimes petty displays of pride have historically invited a certain tweedledum-and-tweedledee view of the pair from afar.

But as the U.S. in recent months has become increasingly disenchanted with Pakistan, its longtime ally in the fight against terrorism, India has felt a certain vindication.

The undercurrent from New Delhi of ‘Why didn’t you believe us all these years?’ has only grown as Osama bin Laden was discovered living a couple of hours’ drive from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and Washington has focused increasingly on alleged links between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and various in-country militant groups.

Pakistan has tried to blunt the sting of growing American displeasure by reaching out to China, Saudi Arabia and ... India of late. This week, the neighbors pledged to double two-way trade to $6 billion by 2014 and ease visa requirements amid airy language about trust, friendship and understanding for the benefit of all.

At heart, the talks underscore New Delhi’s somewhat difficult predicament. It may be right about Pakistan, a proud nation that’s seeing a tragic deterioration, but it’s hardly in a mood to celebrate. Gnawing at India is a fear that Pakistan’s militancy and political instability will increasingly wash up on its shores as the U.S. pulls more troops from the region. Ultimately, it knows it can only benefit from a more stable, economically viable neighbor.

The 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people, planned on Pakistani soil, was a calamity, but it also underscored India’s serious security deficiencies, many of which remain. Two months ago, an unmanned ship washed up near Mumbai, discovered not by the coast guard or the Indian air force but by curious fishermen who claimed they informed police but were ignored.


As India has pulled far ahead of Pakistan economically, diplomatically and politically, some believe that the onus is increasingly on New Delhi to break the tit-for-tat cycle of recriminations, to act bigger, to lower the temperature. With problems on all fronts, feckless leadership and an atmosphere of embattlement, this view goes, it’s probably too much to expect that much initiative will come from Islamabad.

The ‘Arab Spring’ suggests anything is possible, but given decades of distrust, India’s scandal-ridden government and hyperactive news channels on both sides, it’s a safe bet that an India-Pakistan love fest, replete with rainbows and happily tweeting birdies, remains a very long way off.


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-- Mark Magnier