Pakistan could be a friction point in warming India-US partnership: US experts

May 17th, 2009 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 17 (IANS) As President Barack Obama declared his intent to enhance the warm partnership with India following the return of a Congress-led government, analysts suggested that Pakistan could emerge as a point of friction.

“President Obama looks forward to continuing to work with the Indian government to enhance the warm partnership between our two countries,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement Saturday after the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance surged to a commanding win.

“President Obama congratulates India on its historic national elections,” he said noting the US recognised the achievement of India’s people in the election, noting they remained the “strength and foundation for India’s prosperity and democracy.”

South Asia experts agreed that the return of a Congress-led government in India bodes well for the future of US-India ties, but they also suggested that Pakistan could emerge as an irritant as Washington seeks more cooperation from Islamabad in cracking down on the jihadists, while trying to maintain a progressive relationship with the Indians.

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has demonstrated he views developing strong US-India relations as a priority and this is unlikely to change,” said Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

The Obama team will press the new Indian government to resume bilateral talks with Pakistan as a matter of priority, she said. “However, the Singh government is unlikely to rush back to talks unless the Pakistan government is seen to take unequivocal action to shut down the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT),” the Pakistan-based terror outfit blamed for the November Mumbai attacks.

And “if Washington minimises India’s concerns regarding LeT, this could irritate New Delhi and inhibit the necessary establishment of trust between the two new governments in New Delhi and Washington,” she said.

Reva Bhalla, Director of Analysis at Stratfor, a global intelligence company, too believes that the UPA victory is unlikely to lead to any major shifts in US-India relations.

“On a broader level, regardless of which Indian party is in power, the United States does have a fundamental interest in further developing a strategic partnership with New Delhi,” she said.

“The biggest impediment to this vision in the short term is the fact that Pakistan is destabilising more and more by the day, and Washington is having a tough time balancing its need to elicit more cooperation from Islamabad in cracking down on the jihadists, while at the same time trying to maintain a progressive relationship with the Indians,” she said.

But “a major friction point for the US and India will come if and when we see another major attack in India that can be traced back to Pakistan regardless of whether the upper echelons of the Pakistani state were involved in or aware of such an attack,” Bhalla said.

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