A One-Way Street

THE image of President Trump speaking to the media in Washington in the presence of Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan, about Modi’s purported request to him to mediate on Kashmir has had a shattering effect. The issue is not whether Modi actually asked Trump to mediate or not, but how this episode has revealed the fiasco that Modi’s foreign policy has turned out to be.

Imran Khan’s visit to the United States was an affirmation of how the Trump administration has changed its approach to Pakistan. With Trump intent on withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s role in getting Taliban to talk became crucial.  The Imran Khan’s visit is a recognition of the progress that has been registered in the peace talks with the Taliban, for which Pakistan is being given due credit.  The only problem is that India has been left out of this whole process.

The Modi government, which had put all its eggs in the US basket, now suddenly finds itself in an unenviable position.  For Trump, getting out of Afghanistan and the Kashmir problem have got linked up – just the way Pakistan would want it.

Modi, in the past five years, had got India, step by step, hitched on to the American geo-political strategy. He had bought into the “Indo-Pacific” design of the United States; he had given the Americans the right to use the Indian bases for its military operations by signing the Logistics Support Agreement. By becoming a major defence partner of the US, the Modi government had gone on to sign other agreements to entangle the Indian military further with the US armed forces.

As a subordinate ally, India kept the United States informed of India’s retaliatory airstrike at Balakot. After the shooting down of the Indian air force plane, Trump was the first to announce that the pilot Abhinandan would be released. Trump has also attributed the arrest of Hafiz Saeed as due to the strong pressure applied by his administration.

With all this leverage gained with India constantly requesting the US to intercede with Pakistan, Trump is now signaling that the issue of Kashmir must be dealt with by India as per America’s wishes.

As per Trump’s diktats, India has stopped buying oil from Iran and Venezuela. After all this loyal kowtowing, it must be painful to see the spectacle of Trump assigning Pakistan a key role in the transition in Afghanistan.

Trump’s remarks on mediation on Kashmir reflect an arrogance which has stemmed from the way the United States has been able to dictate the issues and the tenor of the bilateral relationship.  In order to counter Trump’s remarks, Indian official sources have  informed that during the Trump-Modi meeting in Osaka, only four issues were discussed – Iran, 5G, trade and defence.  This agenda itself shows which way the relationship is tilted – all in America’s favour.

The United States wants India to break all trade ties with Iran, including oil imports.  The Americans want India not to involve the Chinese Company, Huawei, and give it any role in developing the 5G network in India; on trade, Trump has already taken a series of  steps against India and wants India to lower tariffs and buy more US goods.  Finally, the agenda of defence would have meant the purchase of American weapons and defence equipment.

After taking this one way street, Modi finds himself faced with the prospect of India becoming one of the two wheels of the American chariot, the other being Pakistan. He will also have to face the blowback when the Taliban takeover Afghanistan. 

Prakash Karat is Member, Polit Bureau CPI(M).