Obama's Hind yatra (The Express Tribune (Pakistan))

Three days of President proved to be very challenging for the prodemocracy people of Pakistan. Especially those who think that Washington remains one of our closest allies. It must be pointed out that there is a cackling band of angry newspersons who dominate our airwaves on such occasions and alternatively try to present it as the failure of the democratic government or proof of American perfidy. As someone who firmly believes in the import of democracy and our country’s friendship with the United States, those days were particularly hard for me as owing to my almost daily appearance on television, I was constantly badgered. The arguments ranged from metaphysical to inane interpretations of geopolitics.
One argument that betrays a characteristic lack of imagination stands out. It is argued that the US wants India to act as a counterweight to China and therefore its close relationship with India essentially has to come at the cost of its alliance with Pakistan. That China has huge stakes in the US economy, that its president, Xi Jinping, recently signed a landmark agreement with President Obama on climate change is conveniently forgotten.
Perhaps, it was a sign of inhaling too much of Indian media’s propaganda, which wanted Narendra Modi to emerge as the eversosuccessful statesman ahead of Delhi state elections or a willful twisting of facts by our media which projected old Indian accomplishments as fresh ones. During his first visit to India, Obama had supported the Indian bid to get a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council while addressing the Indian parliament on November 8, 2010. It was presented as a new development. Likewise, we know that the work on the IndoUS nuclear deal can be traced back to the BushSingh joint statement of July 18, 2005.
But this was projected as a fresh triumph of Indian diplomacy and our failure. That both issues kept dragging for years was of no interest to our Google analyststurnedanchorsturnedknowitall stars. Let’s face it. Americabashing is convenient, especially when your memory search engine returns results mostly from Indian websites. The symbolism of the visit was significant, I grant you. But that is primarily the takeaway from the visit. If late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia could go to India and be the guest of honour in the Indian Republic Day parade soon after his coronation, without causing heartaches in Islamabad, why should Obama’s visit be any different. After all, in 1965, Pakistan also sent the then food and agriculture minister, Rana Abdul Hamid, to attend the ceremony as the chief guest.
I found the choreography of the media interaction fascinating. After the ObamaModi meeting, when leaders met, only one media person from each side was given an opportunity to question them. Surprisingly, the American journalist chose to ask questions about Ukraine and Yemen. While both these questions had nothing to do with the visit, somewhere in his response on Ukraine, Obama observed, “We have a profound interest, as I believe every country does, in promoting a core principle, which is that large countries don’t bully smaller countries.” Referring to climate change issues, the same journalist from the Associated Press asked Modi, “The recent USChina agreement can spur countries like India to make similar commitments to cut emissions. I’m wondering if you feel any pressure to take that kind of action because of the China agreement.” I mean if anyone cannot read what is being said here, it is his/her loss.
What analysts in Islamabad and New Delhi do not get is the changing nature of the world order. Gradually, but steadily, focus is shifting from realpolitik to economic issues and the challenges to collective security like environment, global epidemics, terrorism and similar matters. Now no relationship will be as exclusive, but not at the cost of another. Far from forcing the onerous burden of playing counterweight to China upon India, the US will want to work with both. And none of this will be at the cost of its relationship with Islamabad.