At the heels of 26/11, Pakistan charged seven people involved in the Mumbai atrocities today. The Virginia Quarterly Review has a four part article revealing the ordeal in harrowing detail and after reading it, I’m still stunned. On 26/11 last year I got a call from a friend born and raised in Mumbai who was flying out there that afternoon, he said his parents were fine but his voice was wrought by a despair I hadn’t heard from him before. He didn’t specifically say he was distraught or describe how he felt in detail, but i recognized the frustration instantly because I’d heard that voice before: from friends in Karachi who witness countless threats and acts of terrorism since 9/11. I identified immediately with my friends frustration and despair on a humanitarian level, and even further because although the perpetrators in Mumbai were allegedly trained in Pakistan, I knew they’d ultimately hurt Pakistani’s the most.
As India forges ahead economically and internationally, Pakistan is deteriorating. Terrorism has brought vanishing security that has perpetually halted foreign investment, stagnating the economy leaving no trickle down for the lower and middle class majority population who simultaneously realize a widening gap in their position vis a vis the wealthy. Terrorism has rendered governance in survival mode since 9/11 making leeway for decreased oversight and increased corruption, which was rampant to begin with. A year after the Mumbai atrocities, we see Manmohan Singh hosted at the White House in elaborate fanfare with progressive talks on bilateral trade rooted in liberalism that is fitting for a country with roughly 8% growth in GDP and a middle class that’s now larger than our entire population in the United States. In attendance at the State Dinner was, Secretary Clinton, House Speaker Pelosi and Ohio governor Strickland whose state was picked by Indian conglomerate the Tata Group for its “North American Delivery Center in Milford. Ohio offered $19 million in tax credits and other incentives to get Tata’s project that is expected to create 1,000 positions within the first three years“. Deepending economic interdependence signals a rosy picture for US relations in Indian South Asia.
Conversely, relations with Pakistani South Asia in light of that progress are a valid point of comparison because we have a strategic interest in both countries. More than ever, it’s apparent we have economically strategic interests with India, and security based interests in Pakistan. And like previous presidencies the Obama administration quickly realized the delicate art of balancing both interests given that either country feels progressive relations with the United States inherently comes as a direct expense of one another. Engaging India as it expands economically and Pakistan geopolitically for security’s sake (i.e. in the War on Terror and in the face of an ascending China) pose an opportunity for us to strike a creative balance in South Asia.
It’s not about who wears the crown, (“Taj”) in South Asian U.S. relations, it’s about engaging both sides for the long haul.
In Pakistan that means cooperating today for security’s sake and uprooting terrorism and fundamentalism for tomorrow. Key from there is not abandoning ship, but remaining engaged so that Pakistan too has a route to economic expansion in the future. Without security, viable development won’t take place. And so long as we are engaged in an Af-Pak war, our policymakers have a responsibility to establish a roadmap that is rooted in long term success. This is our chance to get it right in South Asia, and that begins with an intention for a permanent solution. Assisting Pakistan to navigate the rising tide of development in our globalized world could be the key to ensuring they remain a strategic, long standing ally.