Uri attack and after: India makes some diplomatic gains but can we trust the US?

More than 72 hours after the audacious Uri attacks on Sunday that resulted in the death of 18 jawans and the maiming of 20 more, it is fairly certain that India won't launch any military offensive against Pakistan, at least in the immediate to short term. New Delhi continues to insist that 'all options are open' and the Army has declared it 'reserves the right to respond at a time and place of our own choosing', but it looks increasingly likely that Indian response will be limited to mounting another diplomatic offensive to inflict global isolation on Pakistan.

Whether or not junking military retribution against a rogue state perennially at war against us and stretching the "strategic restraint" further will meet India's objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan has been discussed ad infinitum in the strategic, political and media circles, post Uri assault. This isn't the subject of this article. Whether New Delhi, as Hindol Sengupta writes so beautifully in The Shishupala Principle, is bound like Lord Krishna and must pardon Pakistan's perfidies a 100 times before beheading it with a sudarshan chakra is anybody's guess.

I wouldn't bet on it.

File image of Indian soldiers rushing to the attack site in Uri on Sunday. PTI

File photo of Indian soldiers rushing to the attack site in Uri on Sunday. PTI

Chances are that New Delhi's "strategic patience" is actually an euphemism for military incapability. Be that as it may, since "diplomatic offensive" is Narendra Modi government's answer to Pakistan-backed terrorists' roasting alive of 17 Indian soldiers, it would be pertinent to check just how effective this weapon would be against Islamabad.

Straight off the blocks at the United Nations General Assembly, it would appear that India has drawn first blood in what is going to be a long and arduous battle.

As PTI has reported from the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on Tuesday, during his final address as UN chief refrained from taking up the Kashmir issue, despite Pakistan's repeated requests. Ban referred to a host of global conflict zones and pressure points, including the Syria refugee crisis, the Palestinian issue, the situation in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, tensions in the Korean Peninsula in the wake of North Korea's testing of nuclear warheads, the Middle East, South Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan to the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. The only thing missing in his speech was a reference to Kashmir.  The UN has toed India's line in maintaining that Kashmir remains a bilateral issue.

Though this is a positive development, the game isn't over yet. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to spend the better part of Wednesday whining against India, and Kashmir would be the focal point of his speech. India, of course, will get the chance for a rebuttal when Sushma Swaraj leads India's reply, but there have been other developments in our favour already.

Apart from the world condemnations of Uri attack with statements from France, UK, US, and even China, Russia has called off the joint military exercises with Islamabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

As The Times of India reports, of the five permanent UN Security Council members, Russia and France outright named Pakistan or Pakistan-based organisations, US and UK toed India's line without directly naming the rogue nation and China expressed "shock". These may not appear much, but in the world of diplomatic pabulum, these are not insignificant either.

The more unqualified support came from Afghanistan, whose envoy told NDTV that all countries in the region should join hands to boycott the Saarc summit in Islamabad in November to send an unequivocal message to the chief destabilising force.

"We have to make sure that we bring the maximum number of countries… most South Asian countries are in line with what we think. The effort should be comprehensive and we should single out a country that spoils our unity and regional peace," Shaida Mohammad Abdali said in an interview.

But by far the most interesting development came from Washington DC, where a bipartisan group of two US lawmakers introduced on Tuesday an act in the US House of Representatives to designate Pakistan a 'State Sponsor of terrorism'.

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif with US Secretary of State John Kerry. AP

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif with US Secretary of State John Kerry. AP

The 'Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act' (HR 6069) was moved by Republican Poe along with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of the Democratic Party, who is ranking member of this influential Congressional Committee on terrorism.

"It is time we stopped paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism," said Poe. "Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the US for years," he said in a statement while announcing the bill, according to the report.

Though a largely symbolic gesture, the bill is akin to India in the coming together of BJP and Congress for a bipartisan cause, and reflects a slight hardening of US stance vis-à-vis Pakistan. There is little chance of it being made into a law though, which would have meant crippling and debilitating sanctions against a bankrupt nation, which practically survives on US aid.

In tune with this development, Pakistan received another setback when US Secretary of State John Kerry practically admonished Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif during a recent meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA. As Chidanand Rajghatta writes in The Times of India, "verbal finesse could barely couch the dressing down that Sharif, regarded as a stooge of Pakistan's ruling military junta, got from John Kerry, long seen as sympathetic to Islamabad."

Kerry asked Sharif to prevent Pakistan from becoming a safe house for training, nurturing and housing terrorists of all shapes and sizes and also made a pointed reference to Uri attack, with an additional advice on exercising "restraint in nuclear weapons programs", according to the report.

On the face of it, these appear to be important gains for India in its effort to isolate Pakistan globally. And such an impression would be blatantly wrong. Let's explore why.

To begin with, India's "diplomatic offensive" against Pakistan, in effect, really stands for New Delhi's effort to leverage its relationship with Washington. If India manages to influence the US into slapping economic sanctions against Islamabad and/or stopping the line of credit that keeps Pakistan's terror overtures alive, that would be a significant achievement with far-reaching consequences. But what are the odds of US initiating such a move?

Pretty slim, as it would appear.

The US recently made it clear that it has no plans of imposing any sanctions against Pakistan for not taking actions against terrorist groups. "Suggestive of any kind of sanctions, we’re not there," US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said on 7 September, during a media briefing. "I don’t think we’re even at that point," he had said.

And what about billions of dollars that US keeps pouring into Pakistan as part of its deeply-flawed Af-Pak policy that the profligate south Asian nation uses not to curb but to foment more terrorism in the region? Fat chance of it being rescinded too.

Countless experts on the topic, including author, strategist and Georgetown University Professor C Christine Fair have time and again warned US against pursuing this self-defeating policy. In one of her countless articles on the topic, she writes: "The United States must get over this idea that Pakistan can be a force for good in the region when the preponderance of evidence speaks to the contrary. Once the US rids itself of this preposterous notion, perhaps it can finally fix its approach to Pakistan."

Pakistan received another setback when US Secretary of State John Kerry practically admonished Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif during a recent meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA 

But that has not stopped, nor will it ever stop US funds from sustaining Pakistan's defence program that is tuned to be hostile towards its immediate neighbours India and Afghanistan. Doesn't the US know it? It does.

But, as Gurmeet Kanwal points out in Daily O: "There is a broad consensus in Washington, DC that cuts across the policy community, think-tanks and academia, that it is necessary to continue to support and strengthen the Pakistan army because… If it implodes, nuclear weapons will fall into Jihadi hands."

To Pakistan's credit, it has been successful in exploiting its unique geopolitical positioning and instability into predicting an apocalyptic future for South Asia were the US funds cease to pour in, and to America's discredit, it has fallen hook, line and sinker to this blackmailing tactic.

Short of such meaty blows, the US chiding of Pakistan amounts to precious little beyond pacifying India and ensuring that it doesn't start a military offensive against its rogue neighbour. Already, US policymakers have warned India that any military attack would mean end of honeymoon with the US.

Therefore, all India has in its hands despite a mounting "diplomatic offensive" is a symbolic gesture and, as Sukumar Ray wrote in Abol Tabol, a pencil.

Updated Date: Sep 21, 2016 19:52 PM

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