US, India, and Pakistan: Smoother Relations in Next 50 Years?

By Newsom, David D. | The Christian Science Monitor, August 27, 1997 | Go to article overview
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US, India, and Pakistan: Smoother Relations in Next 50 Years?


Newsom, David D., The Christian Science Monitor


In August 1947, the United States warmly welcomed the independence of India and Pakistan, looking forward to fruitful ties with both. Now, 50 years later, the US is looking back instead on a troubled and complex history of relations.

Only occasionally has Washington been able to achieve US interests in the region without offending one or the other. Suspicions engendered by partition, the unresolved issue of Kashmir, and nuclear ambitions have plagued US diplomacy. With circumstances changed in the region and internationally, there's now hope that US relations with these nations will, in future decades, be less complicated and, probably, less close.

To the dismay of Pakistanis, Americans at the outset paid more attention to India. Mohandas Gandhi's policy of nonviolence and Jawaharlal Nehru's charisma evoked wide public admiration. India received most of the favorable US news media attention. Meanwhile, the idea of partition, the concept of a religious-based state, and the austere image of Pakistan's founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, evoked little public enthusiasm in America. The picture changed during the Eisenhower administration. Mr. Nehru joined with Indonesia's Sukarno, Yugoslavia's Marshall Tito, and Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah to form the Non-Aligned Movement to resist efforts to draw newly independent nations into the cold war. US aid programs in India encountered nationalist sensitivities and socialist policies and experiments. Delhi's close ties with Moscow further darkened the relationship with Washington. Not even the fact of India's strong democracy overcame these obstacles. By contrast, Pakistan saw an opportunity in its geographic location and its military heritage to join a Western-backed security alliance, the Baghdad Pact, thus ensuring both economic and military assistance from the US and others. For the US, the relationship meant a new ally against the Soviet Union; Pakistan saw the tie more in terms of strengthening itself against India. India reacted angrily to US military aid to Pakistan. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter, accused the CIA of trying to undermine democratic India. But disillusionment with Washington also developed in Pakistan in 1965 during the first of two Indo-Pakistan wars. Trying to stay neutral, the US cut off arms deliveries to Pakistan.

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