Spy’s eye: Indo-US friendship strengthens
India, US pledged to work as ‘partners to combat the full spectrum of terrorist threats’
President Donald Trump’s call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating the latter for the success in the recently-held state elections in India is extremely significant in terms of the message it conveys of the US President’s special interest in the new ruling dispensation here that has been making waves for its healthy nationalist outlook.
India on its part has already given its total support to the US-led fight against Islamic radicals and has shown a good understanding of Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ approach. Modi government itself believes in ‘India First’ as a doctrine of governance but does not think that this in any manner came in the way of promoting bilateral economic relations that mutually benefited both sides and not merely the interests of India.
The only major national concern for Modi’s government has been the exposure of Indians settled in the USA to hate crime resulting from Donald Trump’s diatribe against ‘outsiders’. This became critical when, following the executive order of President Trump restricting the entry of citizens of certain countries breeding Islamic radicalism into the US, a white American shot down an Indian. The victim in this case had been mistaken to be a Mid-Eastern.

Indo-US relations would have been derailed had the US leadership not come forth to assure India that such a thing would not recur. Had there been another incident of the category of ‘racial’ assault on an Indian in the US, the endeavour of Modi government to keep up the process of building a strong base of relationship with the new US President would have been completely disrupted.
The call made by the American President is evidently the outcome of a highly successful visit of India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to US where he had a long interaction with the leadership of National Security and Defence at the highest levels and made progress in forging an Indo-US convergence of outlook in these two vital areas. Doval’s visit coming after the exploratory trip to US made by Foreign Secretary Jaishankar in the initial period of Trump presidency, secured tangible results of strategic importance for India.
Indeed Doval needs to be congratulated for sorting out the long standing differential that had continued to detract from Indo-US harmony in so far as the approach of the two countries to Pakistan was concerned. For the first time India and the US pledged to work as ‘partners to combat the full spectrum of terrorist threats’ besides joining hands in the areas of mutual concerns and commonality.
Indo-US relationship acknowledged as the manifestation of a ‘natural friendship’ was in recent years seriously marred by a desperate American policy of somehow securing support for the US-led ‘war on terror’ from friendly Muslim countries including Pakistan in return for liberal financial aid and other concessions.
This ‘war’ was a direct combat between Islamic radicals and the West and Pakistan fully exploited its position as the ‘front line’ ally to step up the parallel ‘proxy war’ against India using militant outfits under its direct control as instruments of cross-border terrorism. Although India had come on board with the US-led ‘coalition against the new global terror’ even before Pakistan did that, the Obama regime continued to look the other way on India-specific terror attacks sponsored by Pak army-ISI combine with the help of LeT, Jaish- e- Mohammad and HuM - the militant outfits nurtured by it.

With President Trump’s announced policy of zero tolerance towards radical Islam, the influence of the friends of Pak army in the State Department and Pentagon, would hopefully not work like it did earlier. The stance taken by Donald Trump against all shades of militancy in the Islamic spectrum, upholds the stand of India that no distinction can be made between ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’ in dealing with terrorism globally. This gives foundational strength to Indo- US relations.
India now needs to double up its effort to checkmate Pakistan’s anti-India designs at both strategic and tactical levels.
Pakistan has teamed up with Saudi Arabia in a new move to create the Islamic Military Alliance of 39 Muslim countries belonging to the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and installed its former Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif as its head working from the command centre in Riyadh.
While the Saudis get a brigade of Pak army to strengthen their protection, Pakistan will use the Alliance - whose declared aim is to fight the Islamic radicals of Islamic State - to remain in the good books of US.
Pakistan would also try to hoodwink the American policy makers into supporting Pakistan’s stand that Kashmir was in the midst of an anti- India rebellion. India’s handling of J & K at the level of foreign policy and in terms of the threat to its internal stability due to cross border terrorism and the new Pak tactics of getting paid agents to organise stone-pelting mobs against security forces, poses an unprecedented challenge. The government of PDP-BJP coalition needs to work closely with a civilian Governor of national security background to execute a multi- prong strategy of countering the Pak designs and keeping up development in this crucial state.

The anti-India implications of the Sino-Pak military alliance, use of Gwadar port by the Chinese Navy to strengthen its presence in the Indian Ocean, and the sustained militancy of Pak- supported Islamic outfits in Bangladesh are matters of increasing concern for India. In this context the declaration made by Home Minister Rajnath Singh at a BSF function, that India plans to seal the international borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh has come not a day too soon.
Externally India should be able to handle the interface of Indo-US and US-Pak relations on a stronger footing after the visit of Ajit Doval to US that has brought out the joint intent of the US and India to put down Islamic militants of all hues and affiliations across the globe.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)
DC Pathak