How they see us: A shift toward India
“It seems that the India-U.S. bonhomie has reached a new high,” said the Daily News and Analysis (India) in an editorial. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was full of praise for New Delhi last week as he toured India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He spoke of how our two nations’ partnership would endure for “the next 100 years” and effectively “promised to support India’s rise as a leading power.” The Trump administration is cultivating India as a “counterweight to China, whose growing clout in the subcontinent and in the South China Sea area has become a global concern.” And this is not just rhetoric: The U.S. offered to supply India with F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, as well as armed Predator drones.
Equally telling was how negative Tillerson was toward Pakistan, said Chidanand Rajghatta in The Times of India (India). The secretary and his aides warned Islamabad that it had to crack down on the numerous Islamist terrorist groups “that find safe haven inside of Pakistan”—or the U.S. would “adjust” its tactics and strategies accordingly. The U.S. has already made clear what this adjusted, less diplomatic, approach might look like. Tillerson’s visit was preceded by dozens of drone strikes on suspected militants inside Pakistan and the expulsion of a prominent Pakistani bank from the U.S. because of its failure to comply with laws on money laundering and terrorist financing. The Trump administration has many more tools at its disposal “if Pakistan remains defiant or in denial.”
The U.S. has put Pakistan in an impossible position, said Munir Akram in Dawn (Pakistan). It wants us to attack the Afghan Taliban and its allies so that American troops’ stay in Afghanistan will be “as ‘comfortable’ as possible.” We know what would happen next: The Afghan Taliban would retaliate with terrorist attacks in Pakistan, and our nation would no longer be able to act as an impartial intermediary in the peace talks between the Afghan government and the militants. “This will prolong Afghanistan’s civil war, the suffering of its people, and instability in the region.” Worse, the U.S. is tacitly condoning increased Indian aggression in the disputed Kashmir region. Now is the time for China, “the dragon in the room,” to respond. China was on Pakistan’s side “during all previous Pakistan-India crises,” including the 1965 and 1971 wars, and it surely does not want to see the U.S. use India against it. Let’s hope that when Trump goes to Beijing next week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will express his “opposition to America’s India-centric policies.”
Partnership with Washington is certainly an opportunity for India, said The Indian Express (India) in an editorial, but trusting the Trump administration is tricky. Given the upheaval in Trump’s Cabinet, “Tillerson may not last long” at State. And Trump’s policy flip-flops are well documented: While on his trip to China, he “could well change his mind on India.” Our leaders in New Delhi should see the new U.S. relationship not as a done deal but as “a work in progress.” ■