WASHINGTON: The head of an American think tank with close links to the Obama administration urged the United States on Thursday not to get involved in the current India-Pakistan peace process.
“The right American response is one of quiet support,” Richard Fontaine, president of the Centre for a New American Security, Washington, said in an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal.
The think tank’s founders Michèle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell formerly served in the Obama administration as the Undersecretary of Defence for Policy and the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, respectively.
Mr Fontaine noted that recent contacts between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers “offered glimmers of hope in the much-troubled relationship” between their countries.
“A relaxation of tensions — and even a resolution to decades-long disputes — would be welcomed by Washington. Yet the Obama administration should resist any urge to intervene directly in the talks,” he cautioned.
Mr Fontaine wrote that Mr Modi and Mr Sharif “will seek general international support, but they do not require an American mediator”. He, however, underlined two areas where the United States could play a role for encouraging the peace process: “Press Islamabad to finally crack down on Lashkar- e-Taiba (LeT). Urge Pakistan to allow transhipment of Indian goods across its territory.”
Blaming LeT for carrying out the Mumbai attacks, Mr Fontaine claimed that LeT continued to plot anti-India violence. “Another Mumbai-style attack courts catastrophe; at a minimum it would spoil any efforts at a broader peace,” he warned.
He also noted that Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed was already criticising Prime Minister Sharif for engaging India, telling him not to “sacrifice Kashmir for better ties with Mr Modi”.
Mr Fontaine said that transhipment of Indian goods across the Pakistani territory would increase economic connectivity between the two countries. One day, it could even result in construction of the oft-discussed Trans-Afghanistan natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India.
He said that by blocking India’s route to Afghanistan, Pakistan encouraged India to develop the Chabahar port in Iran in order to access Central Asian markets.
Mr Fontaine noted that Mr Modi’s surprise Christmas Day visit to Pakistan stunned the world and encouraged Islamabad and New Delhi to launch a formal, comprehensive dialogue in January. The bilateral dialogue in mid-January would encompass all aspects of Indo-Pakistani ties, he added.
But he again cautioned that instead of getting directly involved “the United States should quietly support their efforts”.