The general mood in Pakistan after its cricket team got a worst drubbing in Bangladesh is sombre. Nonetheless, the mood in Islamabad after the sixth ministerial-level Pakistan-U.S. Strategic Dialogue meeting in Washington between Pakistan Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and the US Secretary of State John Kerry is upbeat.
In a decade and a half love-hate relations between the two countries to the comfort of Pakistan for the first time the much-touted phrase 'do more' was not heard in the meeting. The reason for this change in Wahington's approach towards Islamabad is largely the success of the 'Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a joint military offence launched by Pakistan Army on 15 June 2014 in North Waziristan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border against militancy. The United States often blamed Pakistan army for being partisan in its fight against militants. But, the engagement of thousands of Pakistani soldiers in operation against all militants groups including the most important irritant in the US-Pakistan relations the Haqqani network has largely reduced the trust-deficit between the two countries.
The change was distinctly visible at the recent Strategic Dialogue meet and the forty-two-page joint statement issued by the U.S. Department of State on March 1, 2016. The statement covers everything that comes under the umbrella of putting Pakistan on a strong economic pedestal and ensuring cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism. In militancy-ravaged country people, in general, have been looking for expanding trade and accelerating economy and continued cooperation on energy and education.
The strategic dialogue started in 2010, at a time when relations between Islamabad and Washington had ebbed to the lowest point. In Pakistan, the considered opinion even in media is with all its dips this dialogue during past six years has 'settled into a pattern', indicative of stability in the US-Pakistan relations. The 'stability' in the relation between the two allies is good for the joint interests of 'trade and investment-related initiatives. But, the question that bothers an average student of the South-Asian region is that how this 'stability in US-Pakistan relation' can help in bringing lasting peace in the South-Asia region.
From the US own past reckoning for the disputes between two nuclear powers India and Pakistan, the region is on a short fuse- a dangerous nuclear flashpoint. Even after the signing of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation or Indo-US nuclear deal some experts in Washington have been looking at Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint in the region. In 2013, Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif after meeting President Obama told media that 'he raised Kashmir in his all meetings with US leadership including President Obama, and all of them saw Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint.' Has in the US reckoning during past couple of years threat of a nuclear war in the region ended? Notwithstanding, Sharif making desperate bids to strengthen ties with New Delhi a strong section of opinion makers in Pakistan see the threat of a nuclear war in the region today looming larger than before. And questions are being asked about the US having adopted double standards in its nuclear policy towards Pakistan. Commenting on the sixth Pakistan-US Strategic a Pakistani academic Muhammad Umer wrote, "Pakistan and the US are on the same page when it comes to countering terrorism and extremism. But the two are on different planets when it comes to Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.' Questioning the US policy nuclear policy towards Pakistan he has observed, 'Why is it easy for the US to live with a nuclear India and not a nuclear Pakistan? The greater economic incentives India offers the US is blinding them to Pakistan's genuine security concerns.'
There is an aversion in Pakistan toward the US asking Pakistan to reduce its nuclear arsenal'. In fact, as emanates from newspaper reports from Pakistan, there is more criticism against this posturing of the US after revelations by internationally known investigative journalist Adrian Levy that India is building a complete city devoted to producing thermonuclear weapons.
Adrian Levy is known in Jammu and Kashmir for his book, 'The Meadow' on the kidnapping of six foreign tourists in the mountains of Kashmir in 1995. This kidnapping had put Kashmir under the international spotlight. The book giving a blow-by-blow account of the incident had exploded the official versions with a bang. In his 4500 words investigative story published in the Guardian and the Foreign Policy on Dec 6, 2015, for the first time he revealed that India was building a top-secret nuclear city in southern Karnataka to Produce thermonuclear weapons. 'The weapons could upgrade India as a nuclear power and deeply unsettle Pakistan and Chin.' Adrian tells us that the US has been in the know of it as it has been 'looking for a strategic partner capable of facing down China as it regards it in everyone's interest. And so India has taken advantage of the situation to overhaul its military nuclear capability, the British official noted.' The story has sent serious signals to Pakistan and newspapers commentators have been questioning the US policy in the region. These developments have renewed the fears of a nuclear conflagration in the region over disputes between India and Pakistan including Kashmir.
The renewed fears in Islamabad despite Sharif's enthusiasm for improving relation with India can bring the two countries to another standoff. There can be no denying that 'Kashmir has been introduced in the institutionalised annual Strategic Dialogue for the first time and importance of its peaceful resolution has been emphasised in the joint-statement. Such statements have been issued in the past also, but for the failure of the two countries to address core dispute the relations between them have not improved. Instead, of ritualistic statement US need to take a leaf from its history about US role in Kashmir and its President should get personally involved in the resolution of dispute like Harry S Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower and John F Kennedy for bringing lasting peace in the region.