Beyond the 2+2 Dialogue

Modi is an extreme product of failing democracy. He will go down in history as the worst apologist of American domination over Indian affairs. His one-point agenda of making India great is aimed at surrendering self-respect and national interests to America. He is accelerating India's journey to the 'unipolar' world of America, ignoring domestic voice of dissent. Tragically, his extremism on the right has not stopped the Opposition from falling in line with him on every critical front of national importance with international dimensions while the corporate media houses function as his loyal propaganda outlets. But euphoria generated over the recently concluded 2+2 dialogue at which Modi's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis vanished even before Modi's special American guests left New Delhi. In truth they came all the way from Washington to handover Trump's stern message to their Indian counterparts that India would have to face sanctions if they continue oil business with Iran after November 4. Modi has no option but to say 'goodbye' to advantageous Iranian oil deal to please Trump and support his geo-strategic equation. Before coming to India, Pompeo halted at Islamabad possibly to warn Pakistan that Washington won't hesitate to block IMF loan if they fail to obey American diktat. For Pakistan it is Afghanistan and for India it is Iranian oil. Besides Iranian oil, America is also pressurising India not to purchase Russian S-400 Triumph missiles defence systems. New Delhi's attempts to have one-time waivers in both cases may not succeed, given Trump's aggressive postures. They are now focusing on the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which they clinched at the much publicised 2+2 dialogue with a lot of fanfare to highlight the success of their engagement. For one thing COMCASA will allow India to buy sensitive American military equipment. But COMCASA is not going to make up the loss India is likely to suffer by discontinuing purchase of Iranian oil and Russian missiles. As India meets more than 80 percent of its energy need through imports, it will be more vulnerable than ever before to depend on its limited import options from the Middle East. In geo-politics there is no permanent friend or foe. Slowly but steadily India is allowing itself, somewhat shamelessly, to get integrated completely into America's strategic orbit in the region, replacing Pakistan. Much to the satisfaction of Modi and his brigade, the joint communique issued after their 2+2 encounter urged Pakistan to stop exporting terror. The saffronites, otherwise jubilant for their constructive and fruitful cooperation with America, think it was a big achievement. In reality such statements have very little impact on the Pakistani military establishment. The so-called international community never tried to assert themselves in grilling Pakistan on the terror issue so long as it was India-centric. They are now talking too much about it because there is no pause in body count of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

With the Taliban and Haqqani network turning their guns against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, while Pakistan declining to oppose the 'jihadists' whole-heartedly, Washington now finds justification in India's allegation of 'terror export'. But it doesn't mean they will totally discard Pakistan in favour of India. Their noises, rather occasional notes, about Pakistan-based terrorism, are aimed at keeping Islamabad under pressure.

It's hardly highlighted in Indian media that the security authority these days is more concerned about home-grown terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, not cross-border terrorism. As per latest statistics released by the army, there is at least one militant in almost every village of Jammu and Kashmir. Disillusioned with the present system of governance, more and more young men are opting for militancy. They see no future in vague government promises, joblessness is one major reason for the growth of all round frustration which in turn fuels militancy.

Afghanistan is now a thrown in the Uncle Sam's throat. They need both India and Pakistan to win Afghan War, which they have somehow lost already. The situation in Afghanistan is worsening with every passing day—a decisive victory for America seems remote. Having failed to tame the Taliban which was toppled by US-led forces in 2001, America is trying to strike a deal with them while using Pakistan''s good offices. So after finishing their India mission US defence secretary Jim Mattis met with top Afghan leaders during an unannounced visit to Kabul on September 7. Six US soldiers have so far been killed this year and this is too much for the war strategists in the White House. For all practical purposes Donald Trump has intensified the war in Afghanistan which has been going on longer than the lives of many of today's young recruits in the army. But the Trumps are doubly worried at the same time because of insider attack which is on the rise. They want to avoid another Vietnamese catastrophe at any cost without losing the control of leverage in Afghanistan. In plain language, the Taliban have been able to penetrate the National Forces making the situation more volatile. Unlike the Russians, the Americans won't leave Afghanistan without guaranteeing their long-term presence. Indications are that the Taliban are not totally opposed to a negotiated settlement but they want to go back to the 2001 position which is unacceptable to Afghan masses. Unless they succeed in dividing the Taliban ranks the possibility of which seems bleak at the moment, it is next to impossible for the Americans to overlord the region through proxies.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is now enjoying swan-song of their one-time all-weather friend America. Pakistan is battling a worsening balance of payments crisis that may push it to seek a fresh bailout from China. And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July warned any potential IMF bail-out for Pakistan's troubled economy should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders. Whether people like it or not the Afghan-Pakistan-India triangular flash point is building, courtesy Trump's America. And COMCASA may be an important factor in that regional flashpoint building. Barring CPM no opposition party has opposed India's ever increasing presence in America's war game.

Vol. 51, No.11, Sep 16 - 22, 2018