In Washington DC, it's business as usual in reaction to India's 3:30 am airstrikes on 26 February against terrorist training camps in Pakistan's Balakot which came in retaliation for the Pulwama attack on 14 February. The American capital's politicos busied themselves for multiple headline grabbing domestic events that will unravel this week. An ANI update says India's foreign minister Sushma Swaraj briefed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the airstrikes against Pakistan but there's no readout from either side yet.
By the late evening hours of Tuesday in the US, India watchers among the local foreign policy wonks went neck deep into analysis mode.
Alyssa Ayres from the Council on Foreign Relations connects one thread of the muted response to the shift in White House communications culture itself. "Press briefings and backgrounders help signal USG diplomatic priorities and approaches. The Trump administration has scaled back WH press briefings and State dept press briefings. Others hv noted that DOD is way less transparent than in the past", she tweeted late Tuesday evening.
And then, Ayres speaks to a familiar pattern in the White House - the many directions a direct call from Trumpworld could go.
(I worry that with the Trump administration, the most helpful page of the "teeing up a call" playbook is actually a complete uncertainty. Would Trump get derailed onto Harleys in an India call? Get sidetracked on something else w Pakistan? Don't know.)
— (@AyresAlyssa) February 26, 2019
A detailed thread from Brookings' Tanvi Madan lays out the many dominos to factor while considering a US response. Madan says US will likely factor its own relation with India and China, its concerns with Pakistan, Afghanistan imperatives, military versus civilian targets and level of escalation before wading in. Also, reactions have been different since the Obama term, says Madan.
US response will factor in the following: - rel with India (imp. esp. vis-a-vis China/Indo-Pacific) - its own CT concerns re Pak - Afghanistan imperatives, given peace talks & Pak role 4/ — Tanvi Madan (@tanvi_madan) February 26, 2019
Long time Washingtonian Seema Sirohi says in a tweet that the quiet in the US capital shows "how well people see Pakistan as a hub of terrorists. And how they accept Indian retaliation as justified".
A video clip where Pakistan's Major General Asif Ghafoor elaborates on Pakistan's possible pushback has come in for closer scrutiny. Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor at The Economist says it amounts to "heavy-handed and clumsy nuclear signaling by Pakistan". "But it's intended to serve as reminder of risks of conventional escalation, either to deter further Indian strikes or, perhaps more likely, to backstop India's response to any forthcoming Pakistani counter-retaliation".
Here’s the relevant clip from the @OfficialDGISPR press conference on Balakot and Pakistan’s retaliatory plan, including the NCA reference. “Prepare for any eventuality,” Ghafoor quotes @ImranKhanPTI as having said. Says Pakistan will retaliate at time and place of its choosing. pic.twitter.com/D754ZvvDiG
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) February 26, 2019
The Diplomat's Ankit Panda says the language is anything but "subtle" because NCA is in charge of the employment of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. "Pakistan appears caught with its pants down and needs to reestablish deterrence and disabuse Delhi of the notion that nuclear red-lines have either evaporated or shifted, contra some commentary already making the rounds in India", says Panda, on Twitter.
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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2019 05:47:37 IST