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Unveiling a new strategy for South Asia that has many elements of the continuity from the past, President Trump said that US troops would stay in Afghanistan for an open ended period of time and America would no longer tolerate Pakistan’s policy of harbouring terrorists. America’s strategic partnership with India will deepen in South Asia and Pacific and demanded that India make more financial contribution for the stabilisation of Afghanistan. The president linked this to India’s trade surplus with US saying that India makes billions in trade.
New South Asia policy of Trump
There are new changes along with elements of past. There is greater realism reflected in new policy. It narrowed down on Pakistan from where the problem in Afghanistan is coming from.
With the way US had treated Pakistan for last 16 years seems to be over for now. Whether this policy is followed by American is to be seen.
For Afghanistan, it needs to be seen how US behaves with Pakistan as only trade routes available and lines of communication open for US to Afghanistan are through Pakistan. Iran is not available and northern route is closed because of bad relations with Russia.
There is a radical departure as opposed to previous approaches of Obama and Bush administration.
The inner logic of the present policy is different. In the past, the policy was to write in two direction. While they kept the military action against the Pakistan, they were also focused in a major way on political settlement. This has been abandoned. Trump’s focus is on military solution currently. The generals have been given a free hand and as per them unless the safe havens and sanctuaries in Pakistan are closed, there is no question of military success in Afghanistan. Therefore, the major focus on safe havens is there.
Why the shift?
China is a major factor in this issue. Now that Pakistan is slowly tilting towards China. America has understood that Pakistan will not allay American interest in Afghanistan and South Asia.
Expected reaction by Pakistan
Pakistan will try to retain the terror as input of their security talk. Pakistan may say that it is ready to cooperate on Afghanistan given that USA does same with Kashmir. However, this is no longer possible because of growing strategic partnership with India. As a result of this, there is action on Hizbul Mujahideen and salahudeen. How Pakistan plays this card is what India has to watch out for.
In the past, Pakistan did not allow India to play a major role in Afghanistan. Pakistan used to argue that their position on Afghanistan is on account of their fear of India which would try to create problems for Pakistan from Afghanistan soil. But then it was realised that Pakistan was playing double game and hence, later the American started saying that India should get involved in security sector and now with Americans asking for greater Indian involvement, they are put in grave difficulty.
India should continue with the assistance programme in Afghanistan. For security area, India should respond to afghan request in a meaningful way in best capacity but never put boots on ground.
On the other hand, at present America is seemed to be firm to act not in support of Pakistan until terror is not tackled properly. But their western allies shouldn’t be forgotten, especially the British who have been in favour of Pakistan on this subject.
There also comes a note of caution that the world yet doesn’t know who President Trump is. The relationship between India-Afghanistan-Pakistan is complex and requires more than podium-talks.
Connecting the dots:
US’s South Asia policy sees a turnaround with India becoming a part of traditional ‘Af-Pak’ policy by USA. Highlight the importance of such policy and analyse the impact on US-India relations.