Today marks the commencement of the first ever, ministerial-level strategic dialogue between the United States and Pakistan. The dialogue - which will unfold over the next two days and will consist of broad-based discussions covering bilateral topics ranging from Afghanistan and terrorism, to development and economic assistance, to energy and water - confirms that the Obama administration is moving the relationship from a state of drift, as characterized by the previous Bush administration's failed policy there, to a state of clear headed action. The affirmation of the importance that the U.S. places on its relationship with Pakistan, as symbolized by the strategic dialogue, follows more than a year of constructive engagement that is beginning to pay dividends. However, potential pitfalls looming on the horizon, as well as recent history suggest that trumpeting such accomplishments at this point is premature. In particular, the Administration would be wise to remember that Pakistan's interests do not always align with those of the U.S.
Yesterday, India and Pakistan reopened talks, following over a year of elevated tensions in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Both Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates have welcomed the resumption of diplomacy. This reflects the Obama administration's commitment to a comprehensive strategy for the region. But ultimately, as Secretary Clinton has acknowledged, the problems between the two countries must be "solved by the two countries themselves."
Pakistan's unprecedented effort against Afghan Taliban within its borders comes following a year of Obama administration engagement. This comprehensive approach -on counterterrorism but also Pakistan's development, defense and diplomatic priorities -has built greater cooperation between the two countries, particularly on regional counterterrorism issues. However, caution is warranted: Pakistan's interests will not always align with those of the U.S., and the Administration should not repeat its predecessor's failure by simply assuming a "friendly" Pakistani government will pursue U.S. interests.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to India and Southeast Asia this week spotlighted a nation and region on the rise – and showcased the Obama administration’s focus on improving relations and simultaneously tackling the toughest issues, from climate change to North Korea to human rights in Burma. The focal point of the trip was Clinton’s three day visit to India – a country the Administration sees as a potential key strategic ally of the United States. Her trip demonstrated that the Obama administration is capable of forging closer ties, while at the same time addressing contentious issues that the Bush Administration had shied away from, such as climate change.
The Congress Party’s overwhelming victory in India’s recent elections was a surprising outcome after a turbulent year in which India experienced the Mumbai terrorist attack, the fallout of the global economic crisis, and instability in its nuclear rival Pakistan. The completion of another successful election in India, the world’s largest democracy, demonstrates that democracy can flourish in incredibly ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse societies – and amid intense economic and security concerns. India will play a critical and increasing role in U.S. foreign policy because of its growing economic clout, proximity to and involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and central role in dealing with climate change.
A new report from the bi-partisan Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism finds that not enough has been done, and without strong US action, a terrorist attack using WMD is “more likely than not” to occur within the next five years. The report points to Pakistan, with its possession of nuclear weapons, political instability, and the presence of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups, as a possible “unwitting source of a terrorist attack in the United States.”
The tragic terrorist attacks in Mumbai India – the cosmopolitan hub of an ethnically diverse liberal democracy – are a challenge to us all. The terrorists who carried out the attack exploited the openness made available by a democratic society to kill and injury hundreds of innocent people.
Today the National Intelligence Council (NIC) released a new report outlining the global strategic trends of the next twenty years. The report describes a number of disturbing trends, which could greatly increase the complexity of the international system. However, none of these outcomes are foregone conclusions.