Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bush policy or Obama policy?


By Adnan Gill


Despite what some American foreign policy hawks, like Kim Holmes (Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies) suggest, Obama-Biden team was spot on when they set “Restoring Our Standing” to be one of the prime objectives of formulating the American foreign policy. Thanks to almost a decade long coercive Bush-era foreign policy; today, America is viewed as a maverick on war path. Survey after survey shows a global decline of American popularity among both friends and foes. Even an association with Bush policy cut short political fortunes of many. British Prime Minister Toney Blair and President Pervez Musharraf are among the few who were sidelined for toeing Bush policy.

With the exception of few successes, like Libyan pledge to denounce terrorism and reverse its nuclear program, rest of the Bush policy is fraught with disasters. Iraqi invasion was a direct manifestation of failed Bush Doctrine. The invasion cost America hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands in human lives. Indian nuclear deal is another example of shortsighted Bush foreign policy. It envisioned a one time Soviet and now Russian ally India to be its linchpin.

Now, some pro-India American hawks are aggressively lobbying the Obama Administration for an extension of Bush policy. They argue: to check the rise of China and the common democratic values make India a natural American ally. Though in reality, India is more of a pseudo-socialist democracy; a far cry from the Jeffersonian democracy. The lobbyists go as far as, wanting to share American national security jewels, like nuclear technology and the land-based laser defense system with India.

At the same time, a concerted effort is in full swing to change Obama’s Pakistan policy. They insist on de-hyphenating India from Pakistan; which will remain a pipe dream as long as India and Pakistan remain entangled over one or the other issue. Most experts believe the two will remain in a belligerent relationship till the root cause of their rivalry, the Kashmir issue, is amicably resolved.

India’s huge population with equally impressive middleclass makes it an attractive trade partner. However, neither its humongous population nor its growing economy is meaningful enough to qualify it to become a strategic ally; especially at the cost of its time tested ally Pakistan or its largest trading partner China. In 2008 India imported only $17.4 billion worth of goods from the US. In contrast, China with far better human rights record and business friendly government imported $67.1 billion worth of goods from the US. In addition, American business giants like Walmart and Boeing are impatiently waiting for Obama administration to reverse the restrictive sanctions Clinton administration placed on China.

Even in the 21st century, India is frequently cited for the worst religious persecution and gross human rights abuses by the human rights organizations and US State Department. In fact, Indian record is far worst than what is attributed to China. Indian conservative cum nationalist parties like BJP have been charged for aiding and abetting the religious extremists in caring out communal violence. These parties openly campaign on anti-minority and nationalist slogans. Their ‘akhand Bharat’ (larger India) rhetoric dominates their political ideology. India is one of the few notable countries that still hold border disputes with virtually all of its neighbors. India’s neighbors accuse its intelligence agency RAW for malicious interference in their internal affairs.

The Indio-US nuclear deal was widely criticized even within the Bush Administration. India has a well known nuclear proliferation record, especially in vertical and onward proliferation. In a 2003 interview, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed his reservations over the deal, “We also have to protect certain red lines that we have with respect to proliferation.” However, former Secretary Condoleezza Rice was the driving force behind the hurriedly concocted nuclear deal. It was a brainchild of Secretary Rice’s counselor and longtime colleagues Philip Zelikow and (Bombay-born) Ashley Tellis.

Experts like David Albright, President of Institute for Science and International Security, in a 2005 testimony before the US House Committee described Indian proliferation, “India’s extensive military and civil nuclear programs are often connected, sharing personnel and infrastructure. In addition, some facilities currently have both a military and civilian purpose.” Indian scientist Raja Ramanna also confirmed, India diverted plutonium from the American-Canadian supplied civilian nuclear reactor (CIRUS) for its first nuclear device.

Again, in an October 26, 2005, testimony before the House Committee Dr. Albright warned,

“This [nuclear deal] could pose serious risks to the security of the United States. If fully implemented, it could catapult India into a position as a major supplier of both nuclear and nuclear-related materials, equipment, and technology. With a weak and poorly enforced export control system, [Indians] could become major suppliers [of] the nuclear weapon programs [for the] adversaries of the United States.”

Why India will not violate its obligations this time around should be a matter of great concern for the Nuclear Supplier Group, especially for the Obama Administration.

Simple facts like dubious Indian nuclear proliferation record and its substandard democratic credentials hardly justify seamless continuation of Bush policy. On the other hand, it would be a colossal mistake to unwind American alliance with its nuclear armed strategic partner of 60 years. Pakistan sits on the crossroads of Middle East and the future Middle East, the landlocked Central Asian States; which is sitting on larger oil reserves then the Middle East. Historically, Pakistan had shown greater tolerance for the State of Israel than other Muslim states. Pakistan has also played a lynchpin role in establishing ties between the US and China, and between the US and the Muslim world. Pakistan stood shoulder to shoulder with America to defeat and ultimately dismantle the Soviet empire. Time tested alliance speaks for itself.

Despite serve criticism, Pakistan is still the front-line state in war against terror. Pakistan has lost more men and material in the war than rest of the countries put together. World is still trying to recover from the blowback of premature American departure from Afghanistan after the Communist Soviet Union was defeated. The departure left both Afghanistan and Pakistan high and dry to fend for themselves. Consequently, the resulting vacuum was filled by the religious extremists, Taliban; who in-turn provided sanctuaries to the terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda.

Post 9/11 invasion, instead of filling the Afghan vacuum with a political solution punctuated by military muscle, the Bush Administration chose to stay in Afghanistan with guns blazing. Even worst, instead of seeking Pakistan’s advice or heading to their concerns, the NATO installed an anti-Pakistan and pro-Indian Northern Alliance government in Afghanistan. If that wasn’t bad enough, under the garbs of nation building, NATO permitted massive Indian buildup in Afghanistan. The buildup deepened Pakistani fears of Indian encirclement, which resulted in reassembling of the Pakistani proxy, also known as Taliban. Pakistan viewed the eleven Indian consulates dotting its western border as command-and-control centers to destabilize and possibly fracture Pakistan, yet again. It goes without saying, a fractured Pakistan runs the risk of loose nukes in the hands multiple players. If true, India might be playing an extremely dangerous game of global consequences.

Instead of heeding to shortsighted calls of continuation of failed Bush policy, Obama administration should immediately reverse the Bush policy. To begin with, it needs to advice India in no uncertain terms, hands off Pakistan. America should also cease the arbitrary drone attacks that account for overwhelming civilian casualties and results in a severe anti-American backlash.

Obama policy should add political and monetary dimensions to the strategy of winning the hearts and minds of highly alienated Afghans and Pakistanis. Finally, it needs to bring both India and Pakistan to the table to hammer out a long lasting solution to the satisfaction of Kashmiris too. A Kashmir solution reflecting the true aspirations of Kashmiris will go a long way in confidence building and normalization of overwhelmingly contentious Indo-Pak relationship.

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