Amid an increased India-Pak tension on Kashmir and an ongoing Afghan peace talks, a top American foreign policy expert has cautioned the Trump Administration against any strategic tilt towards Pakistan and moving away from India.
“The US would be unwise to turn to Pakistan as a strategic partner,” Richard N Hass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an op-ed last week.
Pakistan sees a friendly government in Kabul as vital to its security and competition with arch-rival India, he wrote in his op-ed that was first published by Project Syndicate and thereafter, on the CFR website.
“There is little reason to believe that the military and intelligence services, which continue to run Pakistan, will rein in the Taliban or rule out terrorism,” Hass said.
“Equally, the US would be unwise to alienate India. Yes, India has a tradition of protectionist trade policies and often frustrates US policymakers with its reluctance to cooperate fully on strategic issues,” he wrote.
But democratic India, which will soon surpass China as the world’s most populous country and will boast the world’s fifth-largest economy, is a good long-term bet, he added.
“It is a natural partner to help balance China. India has rejected participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, whereas Pakistan, struggling economically, has embraced it,” Hass said.
According to the top American scholar, the US would also be unwise to race for the exits from Afghanistan.
Peace talks with the Taliban mostly look like a means to extract US forces from the country, he claimed, adding that the process is reminiscent of Vietnam, where a 1973 agreement between the US and North Vietnam provided a pretext for American withdrawal from the South but not a basis for peace.
The notion of a coalition government, with power shared by the current government and the Taliban, is optimistic at best, fanciful at worst, Hass observed.
"Instead of embracing fantasy, the US should continue to keep a modest number of troops in Afghanistan to ensure the government survives and the country does not again become a terrorist haven.
“What is required is an endurance strategy, not an exit strategy, based on local conditions, not political calendars. As has long been the case, south Asia is at best a region to be managed, not a problem to be solved,” he said.