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October 23, 2017

US is keeping India engaged in strategic dialogue while helping Pakistan and Afghanistan to counter terrorism


Lalit Shastri

US Secretary of State John Kerry with Pak Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif

US Secretary of State John Kerry with Pak Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif (Representative image)

US stand and diplomacy in the Asian subcontinent, especially when it comes to the Afghanistan policy and direct engagement in that country and open support to Pakistan has continuously been under attack by experts who are duly concerned about
security and peace in this region.

The lopsided, myopic and short-term gain oriented US policy for the Asian sub-continent has continuously remained under attack from different quarters. This facet got amply exposed by the latest US decision to supply Pakistan with the most advanced tactical F-16 jets despite charges backed with clinching evidence from India that Pakistan has been patronising and supporting the India’s most wanted terrorist Masood Azhar – the founder of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, operating mainly from the Pak-occupied area of Kashmir. His involvement in the Parliament attack, Pathankot attack and several attacks across India has been established by the Indian authorities with evidence handed over to Pakistan to act approproately in the war against terror.

Masood Azhar was released by India in exchange for passengers of Indian Airlines Flight 814 that was hijacked in December 1999 by terrorists and taken to Kandahar, Afghanistan, when it was controlled by the Taliban. He was released along with Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh – all involved in terrorist acts.

Masood, who has continued to receive patronage from the Pak authorities was eventually detained after the recent attack on the Pathankot Air base in India.  He is known for training terrorists and so-called Jehadis and in leage with ISI handlers he is behind most of the cross-border terrorist activities in Kashmir that are resulting in heavy casuaities and keeping our security forces continuously engaged and on alert. His ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba and his involvement in attacks against India, including the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Then there is Hafiz Saeed and his organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) which operates from Pakistan. He has continued to assert that India will be forced to leave Kashmir just like the US was forced to leave Afghanistan. He also warned India of more terror attacks like Pathankot. In this backdrop, notwithstanding the ground reality, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 23 February that in Asia, the US is on the one side deepening strategic dialogue with India and on the other, helping Afghanistan and Pakistan to counter violent extremism.

 

Saudi King Salman with President Obama

Saudi King Salman with President Obama. (representative image)

The US, which talks of global leadership, has much to answer vis-a-vis its role – especially in Iraq and in Syria. The US is in the dock over its decision to support to the hilt the Kurdish rebels now engaged in the Syrian civil war and its inability to keep Turkey under check during the current Syrian conflict and also the failure to influence a close ally like Saudi Arabia, whose response to the Syrian crisis has only led to escalation of trouble and rise of the Islamic State (IS) and forced migration of refugees across Europe.

The Saudi involvement in the Syrian crisis has been direct as it wants to see the toppling of the Assad regime and at the same time wants to keep Iran out of the picture as the strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Syria is to continue costly efforts to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. In the event of its failure to do so, Iran does not want to surrender the option of using the Syrian territory and assets in its own interests.

on the Syria war, Kerry said, two weeks ago, we announced a plan to ensure access to humanitarian supplies for all Syrians in need. He went on to inform the Committee that 114 trucks have gone in. At least 80,000 people who haven’t had supplies in years now have supplies for the next month, at least. And the US initiative has resulted in food and medicine reaching places that have been under siege for months.

ISTo consolidate territorial gains, Kerry said, we’re stressing the importance of stabilizing communities freed from Daesh in Syria and Iraq. We’re helping the government in Baghdad as it seeks to broaden and professionalize its security forces and we continue to strengthen our regional partners, Lebanon and Jordan.

According to Kerry, the only way forward that preserves a unified Syria is the path envisioned by the Syria Support Group, ratified by the UN Security Council, and endorsed by the responsible opposition, and that requires a de-escalation of the conflict, a transition to a new system of governance, a new constitution, and election.

Further, summarising his department’s budget request, Kerry said in his opening remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States and Russia are co-chairing the International Syria Support Group Ceasefire Task Force. On
Monday, he went on to inform the Committee that US President Obama and Russian President Putin agreed that the cessation of hostilities should begin on Saturday morning, include all groups willing to participate, with the exception of Daesh and al-Nusrah, and any other terrorist  groups designated by the UN Security Council.

Department of State pitches for $50 billion budgetary support for US to play the leadership role

Kerry emphasised before the Senate Foreign Relations Commuttee that about $ 50 billion, which is equal to about 1 percent of the entire budget of the United States, is the minimum price the US Department of State thinks is necessary to bear for the leadership role that the United States of America plays on a global basis especially at a time when the country is engaged diplomatically more deeply and in more places simultaneously – a situation that has not been experienced at any time in history.

The last century, Kerry pointed out, was marked by state actors and states going to war with each other – World War I and II, Vietnam, Korea, so forth. This century is defined much more by non-state actors taking actions against states and against, as the broad norms of society.

Kerry threw light on the US alliances in Europe and Asia and the generosity of the US citizens’ commitment to humanitarian causes and civil society. The US, he said, the largest donor in the world to the crisis of Syrian refugees – over $5.1 billion.

Kerry said that the multilateral accord with Iran is historic. He went on to observe that it has cut off that country’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, thereby making the world safer for us and our allies. And if you doubt that, read the speech by General Eizenkot, the head of the IDF forces of Israel, who recently, at a security conference in Israel, said that now, because of this agreement, there is no longer an existential threat to Israel from Iran with respect to the nuclear threat.

Then in Paris, in December 2015, the US joined governments from more than 190 nations in approving a comprehensive agreement to curb greenhouse gases, Kerry said.

Kerry told the Committee how this month, the US has officially signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership to ensure a level playing field for American businesses and workers, to open up job opportunity and 40 percent of the global GDP, and also to strengthen America’s leadership within the entire Pacific. The Congress is being asked to approve that pact this year to ensure full benefits.

In Europe, Kerry said, we are sharply upgrading our Security Reassurance Initiative with a fourfold increase in support and giving Russia a clear choice between continued sanctions or meeting its obligations to a sovereign and democratic Ukraine.

In our hemisphere,the Secretary of State said , the US is helping Colombia to end the globe’s longest running civil conflict, and also aiding its partners in Central America to implement implement reforms that will reduce the pressure for illegal migration.

The US, Kerry said, is also standing with its allies in opposition to threats posed by a belligerent North Korea and supporting democratic gains in Sri Lanka and Burma; and encuraging the peaceful resolution of competing maritime claims in the South China Sea – a goal that is definitely not helped by the militarization of facilities in that region.

In terms of ‘fast growing’ Africa, Kerry said, we’ve embarked on initiatives to combat hunger, increase connectivity, empower women, train future leaders, and fight back against such terrorist groups as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.

Kerry observed that the Administration recognizes that the threat posed by violent extremism extends far beyond any one region and it’s not going to be addressed solely – or even primarily – by military means. He further said: “we have forged a coalition to defeat Daesh. This coalition of 66 countries strong now, is gaining traction in many sectors where it hasn’t previously worked on these kinds of things as jointly as we are
now.”

Diplomatically, we are striving to end conflicts that fuel extremism, such as those in Libya and Yemen. We also work with partners more broadly to share intelligence, tighten border security, improve governance, expand access to education, promote job training and development.

The United States and Russia are co-chairing the International Syria Support Group Ceasefire Task Force. On Monday US President Obama and Russion President Putin agreed that the cessation of hostilities should begin on Saturday morning, include all groups willing to participate, with the exception of Daesh and al-Nusrah, and any other terrorist groups designated by the UN Security Council.

According to Kerry, the only way forward that preserves a unified Syria is the path envisioned by the Syria Support Group, ratified by the UN Security Council, and endorsed by the responsible opposition, and that requires a de-escalation of the conflict, a transition to a new system of governance, a new constitution, and election.

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