Day By Day

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bush, Obama, and India

Andrew McCarthy notes that India seems to be something of a blind spot for President-elect Obama and that the world's largest democracy, at least on the basis of his public utterances, has barely penetrated his consciousness. Fortunately, though, President George W. Bush has thought long and hard about India and has worked diligently for years, largely ignored by the MSM, to improve relations between the U. S. and New Delhi. In future years Obama and his successors will inherit and benefit from the unremarked labors of one of our nation's finest Presidents.

Read McCarthy's comments here.

And even the New York Times is forced to note how incredibly naive is Obama's stated policy toward the region, which focuses on Pakistan in hopes of enlisting the Pakistani government in the war against al Qaeda in exchange for better relations with India.

Reconciliation between India and Pakistan has emerged as a basic tenet in the approaches to foreign policy of President-elect Barack Obama, and the new leader of Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus. The point is to persuade Pakistan to focus less of its military effort on India, and more on the militants in its lawless tribal regions who are ripping at the soul of Pakistan.

A strategic pivot by Pakistan’s military away from a focus on India to an all-out effort against the Taliban and their associates in Al Qaeda, the thinking goes, would serve to weaken the militants who are fiercely battling American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

At least that is an improvement over Obama's promise, during the campaign, to invade Pakistan.

Read the NYT piece here.

Of course the NYT, with its customary mendacity, implies that reconciliation between India and Pakistan is original with Obama's foreign policy team. They don't note that when George Bush took office India and Pakistan were on the brink of nuclear war, and that determined and sophisticated diplomacy by the Bush administration was instrumental in convincing both sides to back down and to establish a framework for future cooperation. Bush has also drawn India into a number of regional agreements on security, on the environment, and on economic cooperation that have been enormously beneficial while at the same time establishing an agreement with the Pakistani government that allows us to take limited action against al Qaeda in the tribal regions of northern Pakistan. This agreement, forged with the Musharraf regime, has survived and even been expanded under the new Pakistani leadership and is a testament to the sophisticated and effective diplomacy of the Bush administration. In recent months it has paid off with a number of successful military strikes against al Qaeda facilities and leadership in the tribal regions.

Now Obama, unwilling to directly confront al Qaeda, seeks to enlist the Pakistani government directly in the fight promising better ties to India. That policy, however, is impossible. Whatever tentative agreements might be reached would be hostage to any incident such as what we saw this week in Mumbai. Bush's policy, which recognizes that building strategic and economic ties with India is immensely more important than "getting Bin Laden", is far superior to the silly fantasies currently issuing from the Obama camp.

And, parenthetically, we might note that the NYT falsely implies that General Petraeus' shares Obama's enthusiasm for a Pakistani based approach to regional diplomacy. What they are referring to is the narrow consideration that cooperation from Islamabad would be a great boon to our military efforts in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda. Of course, Gen. Petraeus recognizes this and would welcome such cooperation. But to confuse the tactical considerations of the battlefield with regional diplomacy is at best duplicitous. Presidents, as George Bush understands, are far more than military commanders in chief. They have to take into account of a wide range of considerations and give each appropriate weight in making their decisions. During his eight years in office President Bush has performed admirably in this regard.

He has achieved an unofficial agreement with Islamabad that allows us considerable freedom of action in pursuing al Qaeda and interdicting its operations within the tribal areas. And, simultaneously, we have been instrumental in stabilizing relations throughout the entire region while building solid institutional frameworks for future cooperation. That's quite an accomplishment, but maintaining it will require sophisticated and sensitive negotiations. Let us hope that Obama and his minions will be able in the future to build on the significant achievements of the Bush administration.