The US-China summit level joint pledge of support for the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan is a significant first step towards possibility of peace in the region; that is if you are a Pakistani. For, Indians yesterday’s joint statement was affront to their national pride; how dare China tells them to befriend Pakistan.
As the world keenly watched leaders of the two world powers Obama and Hu appear in the Great Hall of the People overlooking Tiananmen Square people saw what they wanted to see. For Pakistani analysts it was a sign of substantial progress in China-U.S. relations over the past 30 years, but to others this summit was “increasingly important to both countries, but also curiously bereft of warmth or intimacy.” For American observers, Obama walked away without any concrete agreements on currency, environment or human rights issues, but for my Chinese friends at the United Nations, it was the dawn of a ‘new era’ of global cooperation.
For South Asian analysts the mention of India and Pakistan in the joint statement was significant. China and the United States voiced support for peace and stability in South Asia. According to the joint statement both countries support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability, and achieve sustainable economic and social development. Their statement on Afghanistan and Pakistan was expected.
Surprising, however, was the joint pledge to support “improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan.”
The joint statement said: “the two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region.”
This statement has dual implications; first, Afghanistan-Pakistan security concerns are viewed through the larger regional perspective which includes India, and secondly, India’s perceived regional role. Although India has restrained itself and there were no immediate official responses (at the time of writing of this article), but Indian analysts have begun taking note.
I juts saw Natwar Singh, former External Affairs Minister telling an Indian TV:“ Mr. Obama and Mr. Hu Jintao are confusing hope with facts. India has consistently extended its hand of friendship to Pakistan but the response has been wholly unsatisfactory. The government and the people of India want warm and cordial relations with Pakistan, so do the people of Pakistan. Regrettably the establishment of Pakistan is not in favor.”
Salman Haider, former Foreign Secretary, was upset that such a ‘pledge’ was made because the U.S. knows it would be regarded as some sort of provocation to India. He told the Indian TV: “the statement should not give a message to Pakistan that it could start attempting the involvement of others in our bilateral affairs. We have repeatedly told our friends not to interfere. This is not a good formulation and is not at all helpful.”
Indians have become accustomed to the American administration talk about South Asian countries, but ‘red flags’ go up when China mentions Indo-Pak ties. India has a baggage of confrontational diplomacy with China- history of war, border conflicts, water rights issues, and lately economic and military competition. India has amplified its rhetoric against China, and Beijing has been frank in expressing concern over India’s planned Agni-V ballistic missile test. From Arunachal Pradesh to Azad Kashmir, there have been several key instances recently in which Indian foreign policymakers seem to have been unnerved, even alleging China is constructing a dam on the Brahmaputra.
Indian External Affairs Minster and Foreign Secretary were unhappy about this US-China joint statement because China has a long history of cooperation with Pakistan; relations that reach back through six decades of trust.
Although it was a good surprise for Pakistan but it did not have all the elements to make it substantial. The Obama-Hu joint statement did not invoke the Kashmir issue. Meeting soon after the Pokhran tests in 1998, the then U.S. President Bill Clinton and the former Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, had issued a statement that was more specific on Kashmir. The statement expressed the “commitment” of the U.S. and China to help peacefully resolve “the difficult and long-standing differences between them including the pending issue of Kashmir.”
I agree with the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs that one should not expect “that the waters would part and everything would change over our almost 2 1/2-day trip to China,’’ but I am hoping that the sObama administration start looking at India as a key variable for security and stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Resolution of the India-Pakistan conflict, I am convinced, will bring peace and prosperity to the region.
Water is linked to the crises of climate change, energy and food supplies, and in our case, a territorial dispute. Unless Kashmir’s link with water is addressed and resolved, these other crises may intensify leading to further political insecurity and conflict at various levels.
It is abundantly clear to most educated Pakistanis that the Kashmir dispute cannot be resolved until every Pakistani citizen is assured access to water – today, tomorrow and for times to come. I am hoping that China and the US will have the courage to stop India from building dams that will deprive Pakistani farmers of vital water supplies.
Joint statements without concrete follow-ups serve no purpose. I am hoping China and the US will play an active role in resolving the critical issue of the Tulbul Navigation project on Wular Lake in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.