Is the United States trying to play the India card against China while India is much more obsessed with Pakistan? Is the Indian behavior reinforcing the India-Pakistan hyphenation that the Indians claim to detest?
To answer these questions, let's take a look at the contents of the media reports on the Delhi visit by the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
As the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently went to New Delhi to pursue what he described as "whole global agenda" with India, the Indian media responded by focusing their questions to him on US-Pakistan ties. Here's a sample of what transpired:
Indian Media: Why do you continue to have close ties with Pakistan?
Ash Carter: India also has relations with other countries like Russia. We respect that. We value our relations with Pakistan.
Answer: What we do in Pakistan is directed towards counter terrorism. We too have suffered from terrorism emanating from the territory, more specifically Afghanistan. Pakistan has used F-16 in operations in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). We have approved it.
Anticipating questions about US-Pakistan ties during his India visit, here's what Carter told Council of Foreign Relation in Washington D.C. before leaving for New Delhi:
“I’m sure I’ll be asked about it in India, but I think the first thing one needs to say from an American policy point of view, these (India and Pakistan) are both respected partners and friends.”
"Pakistan is an important security partner", Carter added.
While US is courting India to check China's rise, the China-Pakistan ties have now moved well beyond “higher than Himalayas and sweeter than honey,” as officials on both sides say. Chinese strategists openly talk of Pakistan as their nation’s only real ally. And China is investing heavily in Pakistan to build the Gwadar deep sea port as part of a much more ambitious and strategic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that India is attempting sabotage.
“One of the most important puzzles of India-Pakistan relations is not why the smaller Pakistan feels encircled and threatened, but why the larger India does. It would seem that India, seven times more populous than Pakistan and five times its size, and which defeated Pakistan in 1971, would feel more secure. This has not been the case and Pakistan remains deeply embedded in Indian thinking. There are historical, strategic, ideological, and domestic reasons why Pakistan remains the central obsession of much of the Indian strategic community, just as India remains Pakistan’s.”
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