LAHORE: The Indian authorities’ refusal to Nikki Haley’s proposal of involving Donald Trump administration in de-escalating tension between Pakistan and India may sound an abrupt and unplanned response, but was actually a result of meticulous and thorough examination of different factors that may affect India’s regional and transregional ties, foreign media has reported.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in remarks at a news conference on 3rd April 2017 said the United States is concerned about the current India-Pakistan impasse and would like to “find its place” in moves to ameliorate tension between the two neighbours. The newly appointed said this in response to a question: “It’s absolutely right that this administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward”. She further added, “I would expect that the administration is going to be in talks and try and find its place to be a part of that and we don’t think we should wait till something happens. We very much think that we should be proactive in the way that we are seeing tension rise and conflicts start to bubble up and so we want to see if we can be a part of that.”

However, just a few hours after this press conference, India sent a strong signal to the United States that its suggestion wasn’t welcome. Although Haley appeared to be signaling a shift in American position when she emphasized US President Donald Trump direct involvement in efforts to mitigate India-Pakistan rift, the New Delhi’s rebuff to the US offer has adumbrated the need to examine the Indian policy in solving the issue with Pakistan bilaterally.

The first reason of India not wanting the United States to meddle in India-Pakistan rift is India’s strong position of not being open to any third party intervention in the issue. It stressed upon it in the past and reiterated its stance Tuesday in a press release in response to Haley’s proposal where it enunciated that New Delhi’s stance on the importance of the bilateral redressal of all issues between the two countries has not changed. The Indian government believes that peace talks between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir, the Indus Water Treaty and the Line of Control should be held in an environment free of terror and violence. However, India does expect the United States to enforce international mechanisms and
mandates concerning terrorism emanating from Pakistan that continues to be the single biggest threat to peace in subcontinent and beyond.

Secondly, India wants the United States to stick to its post-Cold War policy of not interfering in the Kashmir issue. Though the history indicates that the United States kept on playing an affirmative role in Kashmir problem, it has always respected the privacy and freedom of both the countries to solve the problem by themselves. That is precisely the reason that Barack Obama administration revoked from interfering in the Kashmir issue even after declaring that it will play active role to defuse tensions. After this, former State Department Spokesman John Kirby formally announced that the issue of Kashmir is for the two nations to work out and the United States had no role to play in it. Kirby also elucidated that it is for India and Pakistan to determine pace, scope and character of talks on Kashmir issue. Therefore, India now wants Trump administration to continue to follow the preceding government policies and India’s blatant response to Haley the other day was a clear indication of that.

Thirdly, India does not trust US intentions because of its nebulous policy in South Asia region. Along with the US, other major powers also backed India in the war of 1965 and betrayed it at the last moment. During the early 1960s, the US has been openly and secretly providing military aids to India. During the war of 1965 India moved quickly to internationalize the regional dispute. It asked the UN to reprise its role in the First India-Pakistan War and end the current conflict. The Security Council passed Resolution 211 on September 20, calling for an end to the fighting and negotiations on the settlement of the Kashmir problem, and the U.S. supported the UN decision by cutting off arms supplies to both the belligerents.

Though the UN resolution and the halting of arms sales had a definitive impact on conclusion of the war, it affected trust of India and Pakistan in the US.

Moreover, in the war of 1971, the United States sympathized with Pakistan, because of various reasons, two of them were: first, Pakistan belonged to American-led military pact, CENTO, and SEATO; second, the United States believed that any victory of India will be considered expansion of Soviet influence in the parts gained by India with the victory, as it was believed to be a pro-Soviet nation, even though they were non-aligned.

Andrew Small has also written in his book “The China-Pakistan Axis” how Henry Kissinger, United States Secretary of State of that time, planned to move American ships in the vicinity, allowing Jordan, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to send American arms to Pakistan when it was on the brink of losing the war of 1971 against India. Because of this mistrust developed towards the United States, India has the inkling of being betrayed from the superpower again and because of this ersatz surety of its belief, it does not want the US to take part in peace talks with Pakistan.

Furthermore, Indian envoys and policy experts believe that American improved relationship with India post-1990s has made possible the further exacerbation of the prickly relations between India and Pakistan. They believe that increased American exports of military technology have acted as a threat to Pakistan, engendering it to accrete its military resources as well. This resulted in upsurge in military and nuclear arsenal competition between the two countries, leading to further obfuscation of the tortuous bilateral relations.

Finally, the recent report card of US involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan shows a record of misunderstanding, hubris and failure.

Therefore, India would not want the US to indulge itself in India-Pakistan conundrum and turn South Asia as its next battlefield. India has witnessed the Unites State involvement in Syrian conflict where it has supported Syria’s main opposition alliance, the National Coalition, and provides limited military assistance to the “moderate” rebels. Also, since September 2014, the United States has been conducting air strikes on IS and other jihadist groups in Syria as part of an international coalition against the jihadist group.

Furthermore, the US had also started a program to train and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels to take the fight to IS on the ground. This, along with India’s learning from four wars experience with Pakistan, has a comprehensive idea how any conflict between Pakistan and India can escalate involvement of superpowers, nuclear-armed states and neighboring countries which might turn into Third World War. India also knows that both Pakistan and India have nuclear fusion weapons now and a slight misunderstanding between them can lead to a nuclear war, the results of which will be more devastating than the catastrophe caused by dropping the fission bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Therefore, India has a wary and chary diplomatic policy towards Pakistan and believes that it will be a facetious decision to involve the United States in India-Pakistan subtle relations.

Many critics have excoriated India’s snub to the US offer, arguing that it will result in demurring the India-US burgeoning ties. However, critics have failed to realize that involving the US will impair current mushrooming relations between the two countries sorely, as compared to the damage that a rebuff will cause. Prime Minister Modi has taken calibrated efforts at the highest political level to transform bilateral relations between India and the US. Modi has been extremely careful while dealing with the US as he believes that India’s developmental priorities cannot be met without substantive cooperation with the US. Also, India constantly requires American support for structural changes in India’s security environment brought about by an aggressive China and its growing strategic convergence with Pakistan via CPEC, leading to a re-think on ‘non-alignment’ as a guiding principle of foreign policy. Moreover, Modi has taken painstaking efforts to seek economic opportunities in deepening defense ties and technology cooperation with Washington. Modi had been proud to stand among the tech CEOs of the Silicon Valley to announce transformation of India into “Digital India”. Moreover, India is proud to be only country outside Washington’s formal treaty allies that will gain access to almost 99 per cent of latest US defense technologies after being recognized as a ‘Major Defense Partner’. It certainly captures what is emerging as a unique relationship between India and the United States and India does not want the banal India-Pakistan babbling to act as a hurdle in it.