State of denial
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The last few weeks have been marked by perceived divergences between India and the United States over l'affaire Headley and Pakistan's request for a civilian nuclear agreement. Of course, very little information on the Headley case is clear-cut. And, as was to be expected, the US signalled an assured 'no' to the nuclear deal, although only at the end of their two-day strategic dialogue. But the damage appears to have been done. Indian commentators, already frustrated by the direction of US-India relations under President Barack Obama, have used the two incidents to question the potential for a long-term strategic partnership between New Delhi and Washington.
Such conclusions may or may not be warranted, but are premature. Whether or not it is widely appreciated, the United States and India do have converging long-term interests with regards to Pakistan. Both genuinely want Pakistan to evolve into a peaceful, prosperous and democratic state, not out of any sense of altruism, but out of self-interest. India's leaders have been remarkably consistent in presenting the external conditions for sustained, rapid economic growth as the country's top foreign policy priority. An adversarial relationship with Pakistan clearly undermines Indian efforts to attain that kind of economic success. Meanwhile, the prospect of an unstable Pakistan presents Washington with its worst nightmare: nuclear weapons in the hands of international terrorists. Clearly, both India and the US want to see Pakistan succeed by normalising ties with its neighbours, enhancing regional economic integration, and establishing a tradition of peaceful, democratic power transitions.
As a result, Washington has made generous offers of civilian aid in a bid to resuscitate Pakistan's economy. It has also stepped up attempts at targeting Pakistan's most wanted militants, such as the Mehsud brothers, and has provided the Pakistani armed forces with some counterinsurgency equipment and training. India, meanwhile, has gone to great lengths to maintain civil relations, despite repeated demonstrations of Pakistan's ill will, including its involvement in bombings against Indian diplomatic targets in Kabul and its complete non-cooperation following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
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