Obama’s cold shoulder to Pak

Islamabad: With Obama visiting India to attend the country’s Republic Day celebrations, Pakistani officials have become wary of the new-found friendship between the US President Barack Obama and India’s Prime-Minister Narendra Modi.

Obama’s visit to India is being well prepared for by the Indian government. Agra is being cleaned up, with roads beings scrubbed and buildings getting a fresh coat of paint. However the Republic Day Celebration is not the only reason for Obama’s visit. The US President will also discuss defence, energy, climate change and trade with various Indian officials, similar to the discussions Secretary of State John Kerry had with Indian officials during his visit earlier this month. The visit was meant to set the groundwork for POTUS’s visit.

Unlike Kerry, Obama will not be visiting Pakistan after his tour of India. The President called up Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, informing him of his plans to visit India, and not Pakistan. The move is not one welcomed by Pakistan, with many feeling that this move shows that Obama is not as interested in diplomatic relations between the two countries.

When asked about the diplomatic implications of POTUS’s visit to India and not Pakistan, Ben Rhodes – Deputy National Security Advisor – said the visit to India and not Pakistan is in the interest of all three countries, a point that was not elaborated on. However there are valid reasons for believing that the US government seems less interested in pursuing good diplomatic relations with Pakistan.

First and foremost, Obama has not visited Pakistan even once since he was first elected as President.

The President did not visit Pakistan in 2010 after his first trip to India, neither did he visit Pakistan in 2011 as was planned, the latter being so because of strained diplomatic relations due to Osama Bin Laden’s killing.

Along with that the US warned Pakistan that it would not tolerate any terrorist attacks during the President’s visit. Pakistan has been accused of funding and training terrorist outfits to fight in India and carry out attacks, such as the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the recent Islamist separatist’s attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and the mysterious New Years boat blow up.

However, Pakistan has always denied these allegations. At the same time, cross-border firing has become more common in the past few months between the two countries, with both sides suffering casualties.

The warning provided by the US only adds tension to diplomatic relations as it shows that Obama does not accept Pakistan’s stance and defence of not funding terrorist organisations in India, and also puts the blame of cross-border firing all upon Pakistan, when it should be noted that both countries have denied responsibility for the shootings.

Along with that, the recent restarting of drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan only causes Pakistan to be more wary of the Obama administration.

As a result of the aforementioned issues when it comes to Obama not visiting Pakistan despite visiting India, Ben Rhodes did attempt to absolve any such doubt Pakistan would have due to Obama’s lack of visit. “It’s important that we make clear, and the president did last time when he went to India, that we don’t view these relationships as taking place at the expense of the other. That we can have a good relationship with India and we can have a good relationship with Pakistan,” said Ben Rhodes.

Rhodes also stated that the relationship the US and Pakistan share is very important, especially because of the current terrorism situation. “Obviously the US-Pakistan relationship is incredibly important to our shared security,” said Rhodes.

He went on to also discuss the US-Pakistan partnership in battling terrorism, and acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifice in the battle, saying, “We have a robust security cooperation in place with Pakistan, and we’ve seen the Pakistanis take some steps in recent months to go on the offensive against some of the militant groups that have threatened the Pakistani people and Pakistani government, including the Pakistani Taliban.”

Rhodes also added that the current relationship between the US and Pakistan was at a highpoint, stating, “Frankly, we believe that the relationship is on the uptick. It’s as good as it’s been in years. So we feel confident in our high level engagement.”

However, with all of this being said, it does not take away the fact that choosing to ignore Pakistan on his visit will force Pakistan back a few steps when it comes to the Kashmir dispute.

The topic is one that will undoubtedly crop up with the talks between Obama and Modi.

Discussions with Indian officials on the matter, while choosing to not involve Pakistan, may provide India with an advantage to convince the US to side with them on the matter.

Rhodes had mentioned dialogue between India and Pakistan in resolving their issues. “It’s very complicated. It’s not easy. But again, it’s better for the broader dynamic in the region if the United States has a good relationship with both countries with respect to their bilateral issues, their pursuit of dialogue is something that the United States has consistently supported and we will continue to do so,” is what Rhodes said.

However, the sincerity of the so called consistent support the US has given for the two countries to talk it out comes into question when Obama, who is able to command, and has commanded US army officials to fire Hellfire Missiles in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, does not even plan on visiting Pakistan after discussing matters with India.

Stating that Obama’s visit to India without going to Pakistan right after is “in the interest of all three countries” is akin to saying that the Strategic talks with Kerry failed.

The use of drone strikes in FATA and discussing cross-border firing with India while not including Pakistan causes Pakistanis to view POTUS with contempt, a view Pakistanis have held over the President of the United States for a while.

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