India-Pakistan: Let’s You and Him Fight?

Has Washington removed the restraints on India’s response to future terror attacks originating from Pakistan? That’s what Ajai Shukla suggests in parsing a statement made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates during his recent visit to India. More significantly, says Shukla, Gates repeated the formula almost word for word days later in Pakistan, instead of walking it back for the Pakistani viewing audience.

Was Washington merely waving the India stick to nudge Islamabad towardgreater cooperation in the Af-Pak war? Or, is the U.S. starting tobelieve that Islamabad is a lost cause, and that India can be used –not just politically and diplomatically, but its hard power as well –to deal with Pakistan?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question, but the subject of Pakistan seems to have been noticeably absent in London. If it is the case, though, it would suggest that Washington has not only given up on Pakistan as a trustworthy partner, but has also determined that it can effectively address the safe haven problem in the FATA without Islamabad’s cooperation.

Beyond the risk of nuclear war, of course, the problem with the “India as stick” approach, as Shukla points out, is the fact that India’s much-vaunted military modernization program has actually been stalled for 25 years. So by raising the pressure on India to actually respond to a future terror attack, it might just force New Delhi into an embarrassing demonstration of the limits of its hard power.