US Did not Broker India-Pakistan Talks - Experts

By Arun Kumar

Washington, March 4 (IANS) Leading South Asia experts have discounted speculation that it was the US which brought India to the table for last week's meeting with Pakistan in exchange for Islamabad's cooperation in action against Taliban leaders.

Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Centre at The Atlantic Council, and Ashley Tellis, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who attended a lunch with Vice President Joseph Biden as Indian and Pakistan foreign secretaries met in New Delhi saw no link between Pakistan's stunning arrests of top Taliban leaders and the talks.

"The story is far more prosaic than it appears," Foreign Policy magazine quoted Tellis as saying. However, Tellis wouldn't comment on the specifics of his conversation with Biden.

"I don't think the administration is sure that there actually is a fundamental change in Pakistani behaviour. Only time will tell on that score."

"For various reasons, the administration is happy to insinuate they had a role, because if nothing else it gives them a little more leverage against Pakistan. But I think they know very clearly that these talks occurred because the Indian prime minister wanted them to happen," Tellis was quoted as saying.

"I don't think there is anyone in the administration that seriously believes that it is what they did that brought [Indian Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh to the point where he was willing to talk to the Pakistanis."

The Obama team has been advocating for a renewed India-Pakistan dialogue for many months, and the speculation that US intercession influenced India's decision also allows Pakistani government to defend its cooperation with the Obama administration to a sceptical domestic audience, Tellis said.

"It's almost wishful thinking," Tellis was quoted as saying. "This is one instance where both Pakistani and American interests are satisfied symmetrically by the survival of the story."

Shuja Nawaz agreed that the US role in both the Pakistani decision to change its approach and the Indian decision to resume talks was minimal.

"All of this was really motivated by their own interests ... It appears that it was almost an accidental coming together of the objectives of the US and Pakistan," Nawaz was quoted as saying.

"I frankly don't think there was any deal done; I don't think there was any strategic shift."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry agreed that while the administration has been active on encouraging the Pakistanis to move against the Afghan Taliban, there was no quid pro quo.

Kerry, who was just in Pakistan only two weeks ago, also said the United States wasn't directly involved in pushing for or setting up the India-Pakistan summit.

"We didn't broker it; we urged both sides that they needed to get it going," Kerry was quoted as saying. "So it's been on our agenda but they finally just decided it was in their own interests."



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