Friday, October 14, 2011

Changing Diplomatic Landscape in South Asia

Heera Lal
Provincial Civil Services (PCS)
Joint Regsitrar, U P State Administrative Tribuanl, Lucknow

In coming days, South Asia (SA) will be the epicenter of world power. SA has potent and fast growing rising countries- India and China. China is second largest economy after US and India is fourth after Japan- India and china together unmatched. With increasing clout of both, SA is in the process to change its diplomatic landscape. US president Barack Obama with an eye on re-election in 2012 is architecting new ways in this region. Four compelling issues made him to act speedily. One, ailing US economy; two, Osama catch in Pakistan; three, lost of strategic importance of Pakistan; four, containment of growing China. 

One, ailing US economy: in December 2008 Obama unveiled stimulus packages that exceed $1 trillion. But, US economy did not recover as stipulated and expected. There is valid reason behind it. The Great Recession showed, dramatically, that the US could no longer afford the combination of low taxes, low savings, high welfare benefits and foreign wars. Absent the trillions spent in foreign wars, the US economy may have recovered quickly. But the war on terror doomed it financially. US government debt to outsiders has soared from 40% of GDP to 67 %, and further to 98%, including gilts held by US agencies like the social security system. 

Economist Michael Boskin says in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that federal spending (25% of GDP), the budget deficit (10 % of GDP) and federal debt (67% of GDP) are all at their highest levels since World War II. The proportion of employed citizens (58.1%) is the lowest since 1983. The proportion of long-term unemployed (59%) is the highest since the 1930s. The proportion paying income tax (49%) is the lowest in modern times. The proportion getting government handouts (47%) is the highest in history. 

As per US 2010 census data, In US, Indians are 0.9 percent followed by Chinese 1.1 percent. But in per capita income, Intelligence and labor grading, Indian-Americans are better than Chinese-Americans. Indians community has two governors and politically influential. They voted and supported financially to Obama in 2008. But ban on outsourcing hit hard Indian community in US. They are annoyed. Obama couldn’t afford this annoyance if he wishes to repeat in 2012. 

On one hand he inherited the ailing economy and on other hand he is the great hope for the US public. If he corrects and takes any measure, its side effect comes in way as in the case of outsourcing. To reduce the ire, he took many Indian in his administrative team. He visited India in November 2010 and tried his best to put ointment on wounds by announcing his support for Indian permanent seat in United Nations Security council. He tried to assuage emotionally. Along with it, many important bilateral agreements were singed. 

Economically and culturally both countries are much closer than any other SA countries. This is also a favorable point in site. This process of coming together was set in motion by then US President Bill Clinton. He visited India and went deep inside the country to see Indian strong traditions closely. During his eight years, he brought this process to such a point from where reversion in not possible. After his tenure, Bush was not that favorable like him. But he couldn’t set the things in back gear as politically it was not advisable and possible too. 

To cure ailing economic situation, Indian big market is a point in consideration. Bilateral trades will help a lot in improving the sagged financial conditions. Indian Prime Minister ManMohan Singh is also having good inclinations towards US. His Core team which includes Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Kabil Sibal are also enjoying pro-American image in public. Times to time such allegations are coined against them by opposition. Therefore, for US India is the best friend in SA from economic angle. 

Two, Osama catch in Pakistan: after 9/11 incident, Osama became number one enemy of US and the most wanted terrorist worldwide. This incident jolted US from inside for the first time in recent past. This broke a myth that none can attack US. It used to boast and influence that if any one would enter into their territory to attack, their radars, satellites and missiles would not allow it and would foil the attempt in way. But 9/11 attacks proved all such thoughts hyperbole. 

Destroying both trade towers resulted in worsening the economic back bone of the country. This is supplemented by unwise and political decisions of fighting wars outside and lowering taxes simultaneously. Through this tactic Bush was able to reelect and fulfill his personal ambitions. But he brought the country’s economy on the verge to collapse. Economic indicators prove this. 

Bush could not find Osama. But, Obama located him in Abbottabad of Pakistan. US attacked unilaterally and killed him on 2nd May 2011. This is the turning point for Pak-US relations. Before this date, Pakistan denied forcefully that Osama was not in Pakistan. Finding Osama in Abbottabad made each and every American Pakistan’s enemy in the light of 9/11. Americans’ anger was at peak against Pakistan hearing his killing in Pakistan. They celebrated his killing as they won a great war. It was viewed that Pakistan was abetting and supporting terrorists attacking them on one hand and vehemently denying this on other hand. When citizens’ mood is dead against the Pakistan, politically it is not possible for US political bosses to keep it as ally in SA. 

A key American lawmaker from Texas has introduced a resolution in the House of Representative to freeze all US aid to Pakistan. The House Resolution (No HR 3013) if passed will freeze all US aid to Pakistan with the exception of funds that are designated to help secure nuclear weapons. 

"Since the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan has proven to be disloyal, deceptive and a danger to the United States," Congressman Ted Poe said in a statement after tabling the resolution in the House on Friday. 

"This so-called ally continues to take billions in US aid, while at the same time supports the militants who attack us. Pakistan has made it "painfully obvious" that they will continue their policy of "duplicity and deceit" by pretending to be US ally in the war on terror while simultaneously promoting violent extremism, the Congressman said. 

Obama is the best political marketer worldwide as on date. Sensing citizen’s mood, he started acting against Pakistan. Now terror is a big problem for US. Terrorists give call for attacking US time to time. To reduce this danger, they need a safe and reliable partner in this region. In view of all circumstances, India fits in the block the best. 

Three, loss of strategic importance of Pakistan: Pakistan was built up as a spoiler state both by US (early 50s, 60s, and 70s) and by China immediately after 1962 border debacle in NEFA and Ladhakh with India. Pakistan’s strategic importance was very much enhanced in early 50s when US looking for a base to fly the U-2 over USSR found the perfect base in Pehawar to sneak into the USSR from south and fly over vitally important USSR’s space station and strategic missile bases which were far away from the USSR’s European borders. This relationship ended with the shooting down of the U-2 spy plane by USSR. Peshawar, Sarghodha, Rawalpindi ceased to be important military bases to US as these were before the U-2 shooting down. 

US focused to exploit Pakistan’s peculiar geography to keep control over the Muslim world of Pakistan itself, Afghanistan, Iran, Gulf region (with huge Pakistani √©migr√© workers), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan etc. Pakistanis are delighted with the newly found role at the behest of US. They have thrown their lot behind US. Firstly economic and military aid is flowing back again. 

US used to control Taliban and Al-Qaeda and other terrorists’ outfits from the Pak Land. Now with fixing time line for withdrawal of US forces from July 2011, new equations are bound to arise. Afghanistan doesn’t treat Pak as friend. For them, India is more reliable than Pak. India too has its own problem to side with Afghanistan. If Pak will gain ground in Afghanistan, it may use this position to fight invisible war against India. To remove this possibility, India is ahead to have a good relation with Afghanistan. US have a morale duty to see peace after their handing over of power to Afghanistan government. On this count, US can’t believe Pakistan over India. Hence it is promoting India to take its place which is in India favor too and play a bigger role there. 

Getting Osama in Pak and withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan started in July 2011 are two major immediate reasons for strategic importance loss for Pakistan. It is all part of political marketing of Obama for repetition in 2012. US Citizens are against Pak emotionally with finding and killing of Osama. To harness this public feelings politically, political actors are hard pressed to show that they are against Pakistan. Breaking alliance is a part of this game. 

Families are waiting for long to bring their near and dear back at home working in Afghanistan. America's most senior commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, described the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, announced by Barack Obama, as risky. Inspite of this opposition, Obama announced withdrawal from July 2011. Why so because this will help in winning elections in 2012. Families whose members are away for long will please them and they will support him. This action will cut expenditure on incurring on war. Thus, it will improve economy. This decision is also based on political marketing. 

Breaking long ties with Pakistan is not as easy as it looks for US. Exposed military and ISI domination and their nexus with terrorist outfits are the troubling point for Pakistan government. Pak has well organized lobbyist inside and outside the US government. To put all these paid actors in reverse mode will take some time. They will try their best to keep it in order to continue their job in order to save their livelihood. 

US President Barack Obama, in an unusual criticism of Pakistan's continued flirtation with jihadi groups, told Islamabad to cut its links with "unsavoury characters". Given that Obama had not yet weighed in on Pakistan, after Admiral Mike Mullen publicly described the Haqqanis as an arm of the ISI, his remarks can be a source of comfort to India. It may also mark a tipping point in the US approach to Pakistan. The presidential opinion coincided with the visit of US special envoy Marc Grossman to Pakistan. Afghanistan contextually should emerge in the strategic calculus of the United States as the ‘center of gravity’ in American policies displacing Pakistan Army which has miserably let down the United States. 

But political compulsions of Obama are above all. This is the reason Obama clarified and indicated his views and plan for south Asia. 2012 US election is critical for both Obama and Pakistan. It is this which causing to break ties with immediate effect. 

Four, containment of growing China: One of the big worries Americans have about China's rising economic power concerns its immense holdings of U.S. government debt. The fear is that Chinese actions regarding these holdings could end up destabilizing the U.S. economy, or that they could be used as a political tool to influence American policy. If China, let's say, got angry at Washington over its support for Taiwan or the Dalai Lama, Beijing could retaliate by dumping U.S. Treasury bills. Or perhaps China would sell Treasuries as part of a no-confidence vote on the future of the U.S. economy. By selling American debt, China would weaken the value of the dollar, damage investor sentiment towards the U.S. economy and make it harder for Washington to finance its giant budget deficits. 

There is no question that China’s recent explosive economic advances are of new concern to Americans with our ever-mounting bilateral trade deficit (which has exceeded $200 billion every year since 2005) coupled with China’s continued dominance as the number one holder of U.S. Treasury securities and its $2.4 trillion in foreign currency and gold reserves. This erosion of our economic position in the world, and the concomitant loss of manufacturing jobs, blamed by many on China, has only added to the rising tensions between our two nations. China’s recent actions in the South China Sea and Beijing’s refusal to join the rest of the world in trying to contain North Korea’s nuclear program and Pyongyang’s aggression towards South Korea are further stress points. 

The new China now presents itself as an alternative center of power, and financial largesse, to the United States—and has the resources to back it up. Having flexed its muscles to reinforce this new position, Beijing sought to allay growing fears that China’s success might pose either an economic or military threat with the establishment in 2005 of the ‘‘Peaceful Rise of China’’ Public Diplomacy campaign. China’s successful implementation of this campaign in playing down the possible negative consequences of China’s ever-increasing dominance was illustrated in President Obama’s response to a question during the recent 2010 state visit by President Hu, ‘‘I absolutely believe that China’s peaceful rise is good for the world, and it’s good for America. 

After collapse of USSR,in unipolar era, USA contained India with and through having an alliance with Pakistan. Now fast growing China is a bigger threat to US than India. Hence, USA is trying to use India’s soulder and space like Pakistan to check the growth of China. This concern of USA has expedited the process of changing allies in SA. Diplomatic boundaries among different countries in SA are galloping to reach to some new stable ground.

Now China is a great danger for its super power status. With growing economy of China, it is able to enhance its clout worldwide. The biggest problem the US is facing is how to save its worldwide supreme position. To contain growing power of China, US as per its habit will use someone’s shoulder and space. In SA, the most suitable ally- not partner- will be India. 

Finally, it is most probable that in new diplomatic settlement in SA, USA, Afghanistan and India will be in same boat. While Pakistan and China will swim together in an other boat of SA diplomatic ocean. Here department of diplomatic affairs of United Nations needs to assist countries in SA in bringing new diplomatic stabilities amicably. 

US president Obama is trying his best to regain power in 2012. He is trying to get voters to his side by International diplomacy in South Asia through his best social and political marketing skill of proven record as he is also known as internet president. 

(Views are personal and based on different sources) 



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