China’s President swears undying love for Pakistan, India uneasy

It was a rich outpouring of praise and a reaffirmation of special ties, backed by $45 billion deals, that would have more than pleased his Pakistani hosts, but have created unease among India’s diplomatic-strategic establishment. During his maiden visit to Islamabad, China’s President Xi Jinping applauded Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts and underlined that the Chinese people will always stand together with Pakistan, Beijing’s all-weather ally.
The Chinese leader’s praise of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts must have been created an unease in India, which has been relentlessly pressing Islamabad to prosecute Pakistani terrorists behind the Mumbai carnage. Xi underlined both the countries have common stakes in security and that Pakistan had contributed greatly to security and stability of China’s western border. “This is something that we should never forget,” he said.
Xi began his maiden visit to Pakistan on April 20, a landmark trip that saw the two countries sign 51 deals in diverse areas. The big-ticket takeaway for Pakistan was clearly a raft of investment projects in infrastructure and power sector, unveiled by the Chinese leader, which are estimated to be worth $45 billion.
The outcomes of Xi Jinping’s visit have been closely scrutinized in India’s diplomatic-strategic circles. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi can be expected to protest Beijing’s decision to supply nuclear submarines to Pakistan when he travels to China next month.

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Feasting, bickering and philosophising: Way to go for India-Pakistan relations!

Feasting, bickering and rhetorical fireworks. It was a conflicted see-saw day for the prickly relations between India and Pakistan as the Pakistan high commission rolled out a moveable feast for at least 3,000 Indian guests on its National Day in New Delhi even as New Delhi sharply reminded Islamabad that there is no place for third party (Kashmiri separatists) in the dialogue process.

March 23, 2015 – it was just another day in the subcontinent bidding adieu to winter and bracing for the long blistering summer ahead, but it telescoped multiple contradictions in the tangled India-Pakistan relations.

What does all this symbolism, rhetoric and below-the-belt barbs mean for India-Pakistan relations and the prospects of the dialogue process? The messaging is confused, but still one can isolate some strands: one, for all the occasional bickering and reiteration of well-known positions, the leadership in New Delhi and Islamabad are increasingly realising that there is no option but to talk and re-engage. There is also a healthy dose of pragmatism, a sobering realisation that bickering between the governments will not prevent bonding and feasting on people-to-people level. If nothing works, they can always bank on the robust appetite of people on both sides of the divide for good food: the rich spread of biryani, chicken tikka and kakori kabab…

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Why Obama is not going to Pakistan

If there is one country which is closely watching US President Barack Obama’s trip to India, and with a twinge of anxiety, it is Pakistan. Islamabad and the country’s military establishment are none too happy with Mr Obama’s standalone visit to India and the promise of closer strategic ties between New Delhi and Washington.
Pakistan, according to some reports, tried hard to lobby with the US administration to get Mr Obama to also include Pakistan in his itinerary, but for all its powerful PR machinery in Washington DC, it could not succeed in its mission of seeking parity with India in the American strategic calculus.
This is, however, no time for gloating or schadenfreude for India, which has been at the receiving end of multiple terror attacks from Pakistan-based militant outfits. In fact, Pakistan should be and will be an important theme of conversation between President Obama and Prime Minister Obama when they sit down for talks in New Delhi on January 25. Prime Minister Modi should ask Mr Obama to use the US’ enormous leverage to get Pakistan to dismantle anti-India terror networks and expedite the prosecution of 26/11 masterminds and perpetrators. India should also reiterate its protest against the US clearing a fresh tranche of aid to Pakistan, which New Delhi suspects could be again diverted for anti-India armoury and activities. But the conversation should go beyond airing the oft-repeated grouse.

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Messaging behind Modi-Sharif handshake: Keep guessing!

It may have lasted for a minute. But in the end, it was the warm handshake between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif that will remain the most enduring image and the most tweeted photo of the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu.
The ringing applause that followed the handshake between the leaders of India and Pakistan and the beaming faces at the end of the Kathmandu summit on November 27 said it all. In the end, despite the official disclaimer that the SAARC is not about India and Pakistan, it was clear that the eight-nation regional grouping can only take off if that handshake translates into a meaningful dialogue between the two estranged neighbours of South Asia.

In a sense, the hype about the Modi-Sharif handshake, with television news channels hysterically speculating 24×7 about a possible meeting between the two leaders which did not happen, also ironically underlines diminishing expectations about the India-Pakistan relations that remain eternally enmeshed in mutual recriminations and the thick fog of suspicion.

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Afghanistan will not allow proxy war, non-state actors: Afghan President

No eye contact between the leaders of India and Pakistan at a summit that was supposed to toast regional solidarity and take small but significant steps towards regional integration. In the end, it was Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani to speak some home truths. Making his debut at the SAARC summit, Mr Ghani made it clear that he would not allow his country to become a battleground of a proxy war as he warned against the dangers posed by non-state actors trying to usurp the agenda –- a none-too-veiled reference to Pakistan’s alleged sponsorship of terror outfits.
He did not mention Pakistan by name, but everybody knew who he was pointing finger at when he underlined that the state sponsorship of non-state actors could have damaging effects. “It should be clear that such measures have blowback effects, destabilising the state system,” Mr Ghani said. He also made it clear that his country, which is on the cusp of a transformational journey as foreign combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan this year, will not provide sanctuaries for terror groups.
In so far as feel-good rhetoric goes, these platitudes are fine, but it’s time for the SAARC to move beyond mere declaration and deliver security and prosperity to its millions of the deprived and the downtrodden across the region.

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