America Must Stand by India—and Pressure Pakistan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, participates in a wreath laying ceremony at the General Headquarters. Flickr/U.S. Department of State

Washington’s mistake is indulging Pakistan’s bad behavior, while putting the squeeze on India.

This week, Pakistan-backed militants attacked a military base in Uri, Kashmir. It was the deadliest attack that India has suffered in decades. It has come after months of Pakistan-backed unrest in Kashmir following the killing of a well-known Pakistan-backed terrorist commander, Burhan Wani, by Indian security. Wani worked for the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), which the United States, the European Union and India have designated as a terrorist organization. Pakistan’s civilian-led government denounced his killing as “deplorable and condemnable” in yet another exhibit of Pakistan’s wanton and indefatigable support of terrorism. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif debased himself by praising the terrorist on the floor of the United Nations during his address to the General Assembly, calling him a symbol of the Kashmiri “intifada.”

Unfortunately, this attack at Uri is just another in a long string of incidents perpetrated by Pakistan’s terrorist proxies. And it won’t be the last. The United States must act fast to demonstrate to India and Pakistan where its loyalties and sympathies lie. It must offer its unstinting support to India, while offering unreserved condemnation of Pakistan for its continued use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft.

Many Indians Doubt the U.S. Commitment to India

The world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracy have worked long and hard to overcome Cold War antagonisms. Efforts led by President Ronald Reagan and Prime Ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi failed, over American fears that India would share technology with the Soviet Union. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new opportunity space began to open, but doubts lingered on both sides. President Bill Clinton renewed American overtures with the so-called Strategic Dialogue in 1997, which was to culminate in the president’s visit in May 1998. India’s nuclear test that month made that visit impossible; Clinton’s nonproliferation commitments limited the degree to which the two states could forge a rapprochement. Ironically, India’s nuclear test galvanized the most sustained bilateral dialogue, led by Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh. One of the outcomes of that engagement was that the United States developed a significant understanding of India’s strategic imperatives.

President Bush came into office in 2001 with a different view about the nonproliferation regime. He withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and India was the first country to throw support behind the controversial move. The Bush White House, with the intellectual steering of Ashley Tellis and the ambassadorial heft vested in Robert Blackwell, sought to offer India a civilian nuclear deal. The Americans were of the conviction that it was in the strategic interest of the United States to help India become a world-class military power, inclusive of robust nuclear capability. The Obama administration has worked with his counterparts, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi, to continue deepening defense and security ties with India.

Despite this unprecedented progress, many Indians are wary of the United States. During this same period of profoundly transformed Indo-U.S. relations, the United States provided Pakistan with over $33 billion in assistance, lucrative reimbursement for its purported partition in the U.S.-led global war on terror and operations in Afghanistan. American assistance has included the provision of military platforms, most notably F-16 attack aircraft, which are more suitable to fight its next war with India than the militants Pakistan claims to be fighting. Indians are equally confused why the United States continues to endure Pakistan’s endless perfidy. After all, almost all of American deaths in Afghanistan are due to Pakistan’s proxy, the Afghan Taliban. Needless to say, the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan thanks to Pakistan’s unstinting support of the Taliban and allied fighters. Equally vexing for Indians is how the United States can claim to support India as a rising power, yet demur from coercing Pakistan to completely cease and desist its relentless use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy.

Americans Habitually Pressure India and Indulge Pakistan

Pages