Saturday, November 14, 2009

Obama's Retreat in Mid East and South Asia

"America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam," declared Barak Hussein Obama in a June, 2009 speech in Cairo that was billed as his administration's attempt to mend fences with the Muslim world. The speech was received enthusiastically by many Muslims, and it raised hopes of fundamental changes in US policies in the Middle East and South Asia.

Just a few months later, however, considerable doubts are growing in the Muslim world about President Obama's resolve to effectively and evenhandedly address the long-standing territorial disputes confronting the peoples of the Middle East and South Asia. The hopes for course correction in US policy on Kashmir and Palestine are fading fast with the Obama administration's dramatic retreat on both fronts.

After repeatedly emphasizing that Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan is inextricably linked to Afghanistan crisis, President Barack Obama backtracked on the need for resolving Kashmir when the issue was dropped from special envoy Richard Holbrooke's mandate under pressure from Indian lobby in Washington. According to Washington Post, India managed to "prune the portfolio of the Obama administration's top envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard C. Holbrooke -- basically eliminating the contested region of Kashmir from his job description".

In run-up to the last US presidential elections, it was widely known that Obama believes the situation in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. “The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan,” candidate Obama said in an interview on October 30, 2008 with MSNBC. “And we’ve got work with the newly elected government there in a coherent way that says, terrorism is now a threat to you. Extremism is a threat to you. We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.”

Obama reiterated his emphasis on Kashmir in a December 7, 2008 interview on NBC's Meet The Press. He said, " I've said before, we can't continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation. We have to see it as a part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan, includes India, includes Kashmir, includes Iran. And part of the kind of foreign policy I want to shape is one in which we have tough, direct diplomacy combined with more effective military operations, focused on what is the number one threat against U.S. interests and U.S. lives. And that's al-Qaeda and, and, and their various affiliates, and we are going to go after them fiercely in the years to come."

The story of betrayal is not much different in the Middle East where the Obama administration first insisted on total freeze on Israeli settlements only to retreat after tremendous pressure from the powerful Israel lobby in Washington. In fact, Hillary Clinton not only gave in to the Israel lobby, but described as "unprecedented" Bibi Netanyahu's hollow assurance to "restrain" settlement growth. The immediate effect of this about-face in US policy has been the decision by President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestinian Authority to not seek re-election, a clear signal that the Mr. Abbas, considered a "reliable partner" for peace, feels betrayed by the Americans. This betrayal will only serve the strengthen the extremists on both sides of the Israel-Palestine divide.

Unfortunately, the domestic politics in Washington have trumped good, well-thought policies and plans by the well-meaning Obama team in both of the extremely dangerous regions of the world.

It is well known that the India caucus, consisting of pro-India members who receive campaign contributions from the Indian lobby, is one of the largest and most active in the US Congress. To ensure their loyalty, the Indian lobby is using both carrots and sticks. Following the Israel lobby's hardball methods, USINPAC helps raise funds for those who support pro-India policies, and threatens to unseat legislators such as Indiana Rep. Dan Burton who are sometimes critical of India. Since its inception, USINPAC has launched campaigns to neutralize Rep. Burton and others who do not do the bidding of the Indian lobby in US Congress. In 2005, USINPAC organized support in Congress to successfully prevent Rep. Burton from becoming the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. In 2003, USINPAC organized a similar campaign to successfully prevent Rep. Burton from becoming the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee that had jurisdiction over India.

Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani recently told a US publication that the Indo-U.S. relationship is robust and multifaceted. He mentioned that 26 members of the Obama administration are Indian-Americans. Some of them, such as Sonal Shah, have had known ties with the extremist Hindu Sangh Parivar. An Indian-American Rajiv Shah has been named by Obama as the head of US Agency for International Development (US AID). When confirmed, Mr. Shah will be deeply involved in handling aid to Pakistan under Kerry-Lugar bill.

Taha Gaya of Pakistan's nascent Washington lobby PAL-C explained to the BBC recently that on some issues the Indian and Pakistani lobbies had sometimes cooperated. But the Mumbai attacks last year changed all that.

"When Mumbai happened," Gaya told the BBC, "we saw a resurgence of participation from the older generation of Indian-Americans - those who had grown up in India" - who, he claimed, reverted to what he described as "the old more negative dynamic".

There is inevitable conflict between the two lobbies. The recent Kerry-Lugar aid bill for Pakistan is a good example of this conflict. Pro-India groups lobbied hard for all sorts of conditions to be included in the bill.

Sanjay Puri of USINPAC, the India Lobby, was part of this campaign. This was not about supporting India's interests, he claims, and neither was it motivated by hostility towards Pakistan.

It's clear that Indian-Americans have taken a page from the successful Jewish-American playbook. Not only are they active in the executive branch and on Capitol Hill, they are also being increasingly seen in the powerful financial services sector, high profile US media, major US universities, Washington think-tanks and other places which shape US public opinion and policies. And they are exercising rising influence on South Asia policy in the same way that the Jewish-Americans have on the US position in the Middle East conflict. The rising Indian influence in Washington and close multi-faceted collaboration between India and US are seen as a big threat by Pakistanis.

Indian lobby is collaborating with the American corporate interests and the pro-Israel Jewish-American lobby to gain power in the United States, and influence policies and legislation in Washington. On US policies toward Pakistan, the Indian lobby has already proved its power twice recently: the passage of US-India nukes deal and Kerry-Lugar aid strings. And the Indian lobby's strength is only growing.

Given the growing strength of both Indian and Israeli lobbies in Washington, the lack of progress on Palestine and Kashmir is going to significantly hurt all three nations in the India-Israel-US axis. The Americans will not be able to play the role of an honest broker in either region, unless the Israelis and Indians themselves recognize the consequences of their misguided and self-destructive policies in the Middle East and South Asia. At the same time, the growing Mid-East like US pre-occupation with the major unresolved and festering issues in two regions of the world is going to hurt America's interests abroad, with China seizing the initiative in a rapidly changing world.

Related Links:

Haqqani on US-India Ties

Holbrook "AfPak" Mission

India Lobby's Success in Holbrook Mandate

Obama Ignores Sonal Shah's VHP Ties

Obama on Kashmir

India Washington Lobby Emulates AIPAC

China's Checkbook Diplomacy

Pakistanis See US as Biggest Threat

US-India Nuclear Deal

India-Israel-US Axis


Jaydev said...

unless the Israelis and Indians themselves recognize the consequences of their misguided and self-destructive policies in the Middle East and South Asia.

I think you forgot to include Pak in the self-destructive policies list.
A recent book by a prominent French Judge-prosecutor says that militant groups are integral part of Pak go figure..
About Kashmir and all..its returning to normalcy..and even with previous level of violence..India can fight this proxy war for another 200 years..
I think the David Kilculen deadline for Pak collapse was about 2 months ago..but he seems to be spot on on developments..

Considerable doubts are growing in the Muslim world about President Obama's resolve to effectively and evenhandedly address the long-standing territorial disputes confronting the peoples of the Middle East and South Asia.

First of all there is no such thing as Muslim World as an entity with common interest except that of US and Serbia..which is not enough to hold a nation difficulty seen in Iraq(Shia-Sunni-Kurd..etc), Afghanistan(Pasthun-Hazaras-Tajik-Uzbek) and best example is Pak from where Bengalis had to break go figure..on this one too..ha ha..
In fact Pak is the only country in the world whose only glue is religion.. and that is why its not gonna work

Anonymous said...

Obama got elected on Nov 4 and on Nov 26 something happened in Mumbai. After that he would appear to be a fool to support Pakistan on the Kashmir cause.

I saw preview of it and anti Pak campaign by India has done a great job of projecting pak as a we-hate-all-country.

Fareed Zakaria is a disgrace to muslisms.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "After that he would appear to be a fool to support Pakistan on the Kashmir cause."

After Mumbai, it's more necessary than ever to resolve Kashmir because the potential for this issues causing a major war in South Asia that would seriously damage US interests. And Obama recognized it in the immediate aftermath of Mumbai last year.

Obama reiterated his emphasis on Kashmir in a December 7, 2008 interview on NBC's Meet The Press. He said, " I've said before, we can't continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation. We have to see it as a part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan, includes India, includes Kashmir, includes Iran. And part of the kind of foreign policy I want to shape is one in which we have tough, direct diplomacy combined with more effective military operations, focused on what is the number one threat against U.S. interests and U.S. lives. And that's al-Qaeda and, and, and their various affiliates, and we are going to go after them fiercely in the years to come."

Riaz Haq said...

jadev: "I think you forgot to include Pak in the self-destructive policies list."

I can't disagree with that. But the root cause of radicalization in both India and Pakistan is the festering issue of Kashmir that needs to be laid to rest.

Obama's diagnosis is correct. It's unfortunate that his administration is unable to work on a cure because of domestic politics.

jadev: "First of all there is no such thing as Muslim World as an entity with common interest except that of religion.."

Technically, you are correct because unrepresentative national leaders do not coordinate their policies. But you can't say the same about the Muslim street. Many polls of the people in Islamic countries by Gallup and IRI confirm this fact.

Anonymous said...

"I can't disagree with that. But the root cause of radicalization in both India and Pakistan is the festering issue of Kashmir that needs to be laid to rest."

So are you saying that Kashmir is the root cause why Pakistanis are blowing themselves off.

What is the root cause of Chinese muslims who are radicalized and are at war with the govt there.

What was the root cause of greatest genocide after WW2, that of Bengalis of East pakistan.

Anonymous said...

this is the root cause of islamic anger everywhere
"The same pathologies that drive al-Qaeda also beat within Major Hasan, and in the end his Islamic impulses trumped his expensive Western education, his psychiatric training, his military discipline—his entire American identity."

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "So are you saying that Kashmir is the root cause why Pakistanis are blowing themselves off."

Terrorism is a violent form of protest against perceived injustice and it often becomes indiscriminate...especially when foreign intelligence , such as RAW, start to fish in troubled waters to inflict pain on their enemies in Pakistan.

There are misguided Muslims, such as al Qaeda and Taliban, who are ready to exploit the situations in Kashmir and Palestine where people have suffered at the hands of their brutal occupiers who happen to be non-Muslims. And such exploiters have had plenty to exploit lately as these major problems continue to fester like open wounds, further exacerbated by the "war on terror" since 911 that has riled up almost the entire Middle East and South Asia and spreading to other parts of the world.

Would terrorism and violence completely disappear if there were no problems like Kashmir and Palestine? I don't think so. I believe there will still be a certain level of anger and violence for other injustices but it can be managed more as nuisance.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from an interesting NPR radio report about Indians' obsession with Pakistan:

Many analysts believe India's biggest foreign policy challenge these days is its rivalry with China.

But changing attitudes about Pakistan isn't going to be easy. The subject dominates India's news media, which often makes no attempt to disguise its bias. A recent television newscast used the phrase "most preposterous" to describe a position espoused by Pakistan's interior minister.

"It's hysterical. It's absolutely, totally unprofessional," says Seema Mustafa, editor of India's Covert magazine. "I think the television channels have actually forgotten they are journalists, and they've become advocates for war."

She says the relationship between India and Pakistan is a paradox. "At the individual level, it turns into a whole level of camaraderie. And at the political level, it is akin to hate," Mustafa says.

Indians who take a hard-line stance on Pakistan sometimes display a strangely contradictory view of that country, Mustafa says.

"People who have been sort of going hammer and tongs about nuking Pakistan — of taking your army across and finishing that country — are people I have seen visit Islamabad and be even friendlier with the Pakistanis. And the families all start visiting each other, big gifts are taken. Then after that, they come back and say the same thing," Mustafa says.

Riaz Haq said...

It seems a little too early for a challenge to USINPAC emerge among Indian-Americans, but it seems there is at least a nascent challenge to AIPAC coming from "J Street" on influencing US policy toward Israel.

Here's a NY Times report on it:

The tensions and sharp disagreements that have ripened among many American Jews over President Obama’s approach to Middle East issues were on public display here this week as a fledgling Jewish group held its first convention.

Mr. Obama sent his top national security aide to the convention of the group, known as J Street, but the Israeli ambassador pointedly stayed home. Some members of Congress agreed to be part of the event, only to withdraw their support in the face of criticism from their own political backers.

J Street has only a small fraction of the resources and membership of more established pro-Israel groups, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and it remains unclear how potent it will be in presenting itself as an alternative. Nonetheless, it has had great success in quickly becoming a major reference point in the complicated debate over President Obama’s Middle East policy as well as the more emotional issue of the appropriate role for American Jews in supporting Israel.

While opinions in the Jewish community have never been uniform or monolithic, several analysts, elected officials and pollsters said the debate over Mr. Obama’s approach to Israel and its neighbors has sharpened boundaries between those who strongly support him and those who have grown more wary.

J Street has tried to position itself as a counterweight to groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, which J Street supporters say require the United States to support the Israeli government too reflexively.

The main issue that set the polarization in motion, many say, was the administration’s public feud in the summer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after an American demand that Israel immediately freeze any construction in the settlements.

Steve Grossman, a former president of Aipac and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said that the administration’s approach on the settlements issue had caused “an enormous sense of anxiety” among many American Jews.

“It seemed that too much was being laid on Israel without any commensurate demand on the other side,” he said, noting that it created “an emotional chasm.”

The issue of how much any American administration should press an Israeli government to make concessions for peace is at the heart of delicate and long-unresolved questions among American Jews. At the least, say the traditional supporters of Israel, any disagreements should not be aired publicly.

At the height of the American-Israeli disagreement in June, Aipac was able to get more than 300 members of Congress to sign a resolution that in effect urged that disagreements between Israel and the United States be dealt with privately.

J Street officials have said one of their principal beliefs is that any administration, Mr. Obama’s included, should have some room to disagree with Israel’s government in order to become a more effective broker in the region.

A senior administration official said that the president and his advisers were aware of the restiveness caused by the summer’s dispute with Mr. Netanyahu over settlements. But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Obama’s stance on settlements was not a drastic departure from longstanding policy and that relations with the Netanyahu government were now excellent.

Jim Gerstein, one of J Street’s founders, said his research and other polls found that most American Jews were uncomfortable with Israel’s settlement policy. But he said Orthodox Jews generally did support it.

In Israel itself, Mr. Obama’s favorable rating dropped in August to about 4 percent, according to a poll for The Jerusalem Post.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting excerpts from a piece by Anjum Niaz in Pakistan's Daily Dawn today:

‘If I were a Pakistani, I would worry… there are frightening times ahead,’ Seymour Hersh warned. ‘You guys are next after Iran,’ he told me when I asked about American designs on our nukes. ‘Your nuclear programme is the target.’ Well wired with intelligence sources, not just in the American CIA, but the Mossad in Israel, RAW in India and the ISI in Pakistan; the Pulitzer Prize winner operates via sources crawling around these intelligence agencies who have over the years gladly handed him classified information.

‘If Musharraf was to go down south (exit),’ Hersh said four years ago, ‘there’ll be a traffic jam! There’ll be the CIA, Mossad and RAW jumping in to grab your nuclear facilities. It will be a free-for-all. The ISI and the Pakhtoons are terribly concerned.’ Earlier, he alleged in a November 2001 New Yorker article that Al Qaida was founded at a 1988 meeting in Peshawar. He quoted a former Pakistani diplomat who said, ‘If you go through the officers’ list, almost all of the ISI regulars would say of the Taliban, ‘They are my boys.’’

I pressed on with my questions on Pakistan’s security issues vis-à-vis Iran and India. How would a nearly nuclear armed Iran react if India and Pakistan were to go to war? In his typical New York accent, he answered, ‘Iran is not making nuclear weapons. It’s Israel you should be worrying about. With 600 nukes bristling under its arm, Tel Aviv is the greatest threat to the regional security. Other than Pakistan, there’s no Muslim country with a bomb.’

Castigating the New York Times, Hersh continued, ‘I throw a challenge to the Times to do a critical piece on Israel’s foreign policy and how it influences America. We must separate ourselves from Israeli interests and stop Israel from confusing the issue.’

Except for two walkouts, the rest of the audience, a 1000-strong, clap and cheer when he speaks of Israeli lobbyists infiltrating the power corridors in America to successfully mind-control policy-makers.

‘Hezbollah is not a terrorist organisation nor is it threatening our security one iota! Why then are the NYT and Washington Post pursuing the Israeli storyline? Israeli agents have infiltrated the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna. ‘Muslims are not terrorists, as Israel alleges.’

Anonymous said...

I think we can all agree that Pakistan's terror as a state policy has been disastrous for itself.Instead of bleeding India by a thouand cuts it is coming back to haunt Pakistan.

So let's see:
1.India will not cede an inch of its territory(spare me the rights of the kashmiri people rhetoric what about the right of balochi ppl or NWFP people or Ahmediyas or shias etc etc)

2.The conflict is far far more painful to Pakistan than India,we are still growing ~7% and have ~300bn usd in FX reserves Pakistan to put it politely is somewhat less successful.

3.Time is running out for Pakistan 5 more years of this and the nucleus to create a viable state will simply not be present.

Given these 3 very obvious parameters the lasting solution to the Kashmir problem is recognizing the LOC as the international border.
Just like there is an iranian balochistan and a Pakistani balochistan there will be an Indian Kashmir and a Pakistani Kashmir.Period.

But Pakistanis are probably gonna break their heads on a brick wall for a while longer.Sad.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "..Pakistanis are probably gonna break their heads on a brick wall..."

You are clearly hawk on this issue. But most sane Indians recognize the need to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Media reports indicate that India and Pakistan have had two rounds of meetings in Bangkok in the past three weeks as part of the back-channel diplomacy on Kashmir. The dialogue was held between former Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan and former RAW chief A S Dullat.

Mirwaiz confirmed to the Indian Express in a recent interview that the four-point formula proposed by former Pakistani President Musharraf is being revived to try and settle the Kashmir issues. The Musharraf formula envisions soft or porous borders in Kashmir with freedom of movement for the Kashmiris; exceptional autonomy or "self-governance" within each region of Kashmir; phased demilitarization of all regions; and finally, a "joint supervisory mechanism," with representatives from India, Pakistan and all parts of Kashmir, to oversee the plan’s implementation.

“India is not ready for the joint-management part of the proposals which talk about joint control of foreign affairs, currency and communications in Kashmir,” Mirwaiz told the Indian Express. “There’s a broader agreement on the other aspects of this settlement model”.

Anonymous said...

1.Porous borders are not possible unless terrorism in Pakistan stops otherwise this is tatamount to leaving the front gate open.

2.Why do you think India will cede control (for this is exactly what it is) from a position of strength?Pakistan can't as a viable state go on spending 5% of GDP on defence year after year against an enemy growing three times faster we know that?
Put yourself in our shoes will you have ceded authority if you were negotiating from a position of strength?

3.There are many power centres in pakistan right now various factions of the army,isi,bueraucracy,feudal lords,islamists etc i.e there is no unity of command who exactly is going to legitimately represent the pakistani state at such negotiations?

4.I don't think a country negotiates landmark agreements like this in the middle of a civil war.

So my advice don't get excited the Indian state is not in any mood specially after Mumbai to cede sovereignity,all this we are just for Washington's consumption nobody in India will compromise her integrity for fear of getting thrashed at the polls,that's the power of democracy.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report about World Bank aid to India to clean up Ganges:

(AFP) – Dec 2, 2009

NEW DELHI — The World Bank said Wednesday it will give India at least one billion dollars to help clean up the heavily polluted holy river Ganges as part of moves to sharply hike lending to the country.

The Ganges clean-up involves building modern sewage treatment, revamping drains and other measures to improve the quality of the sacred river which has been badly dirtied by industrial chemicals, farm pesticides and other sewage.

"The World Bank is helping the government of India in its recently launched program to clean and conserve the Ganga (Ganges) River with an initial assistance of one billion dollars to be provided over the next four-to-five years," the multilateral lender said in a statement.

India's environment minister hailed the World Bank's support for cleaning up the river, known to Hindus as "the Mother Ganges."

"This is a project of enormous national importance and I am pleased that the World Bank has come forward to assist us," Ramesh said at a joint news conference in New Delhi with visiting World Bank chief Robert Zoellick.

The announcement came after the finance ministry earlier Wednesday said the World Bank was expected to triple lending this year to India to seven billion this year for development, infrastructure and other projects.

The sum is three times the average 2.3 billion dollars the Bank has loaned India annually over the past four years.

Zoellick is on a four-day visit to the country.

India already has 19.57 billion dollars in World Bank loans that are supporting 68 development, infrastructure and other projects and is the Washington-based financial institution's biggest borrower.

As part of the seven billion dollars in lending this year, the World Bank in September announced 4.3 billion dollars in loans to help strengthen India's economy amid the global economic crisis.

Zoellick wrote in the Hindustan Times newspaper Wednesday that India faces enormous challenges.

But "if it can remove (infrastructure) bottlenecks that slow its economy, then India is well positioned to become one of the new poles of global growth."

The world financial system "needs to accommodate India and other powers whose growth rates far exceed those of developed countries," Zoellick said.

As India's economy returns to growth rates of eight-to-nine per cent, "we can expect it to grow not only as a market but as a supplier of a range of services and increasingly knowledge-intensive goods," Zoellick said.

Earlier this week, India reported quarterly growth rose 7.9 percent from a year earlier, underscoring what analysts said has been the country's faster-than-expected recovery from the global slump.

The finance ministry said Mukherjee pressed Zoellick for swift completion of reforms to give a greater voice to developing nations at the World Bank.

In September, leaders at a Group of 20 summit in the US city of Pittsburgh backed plans to give developing countries greater voting rights at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Riaz Haq said...

From The Daily Times today....

Why not have a joint Kashmir?’

* PDP president calls for having ‘dual currency’ to encourage trade
* Says LoC should be made ‘irrelevant’

NEW DELHI: The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Indian-held Kashmir has called for unifying both Kashmirs and having a “dual currency” to encourage trade.

Speaking at an Indo-Pak conference on Sunday, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said, “Can’t there be any joint mechanism between the two Kashmirs? Why can’t we have a joint council consisting of representatives from both sides?”

LoC: She said the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir should be made “irrelevant”. She said the recent militancy-related incidents in IHK should not influence New Delhi’s decision to withdraw troops from the disputed territory. “We know that the aim of any terror attack is to sabotage the dialogue process. The Lal Chowk attack should not influence the intention of the Indian government to withdraw forces [from IHK],” she said. The PDP leader said wars between India and Pakistan had only resulted in accumulation of security forces in IHK. Mehbooba said the peace process should be de-linked from terror incidents, adding that resumption of composite dialogue between India and Pakistan was the need of the hour.

The situation in IHK “has improved over the period of time and the people are turning to peaceful means to raise their grievances”, she said. Mehbooba said India and Pakistan should engage themselves in a result-oriented dialogue, adding that Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone was killed because “he wanted dialogue”. The PDP president urged the two countries to make a policy shift on Kashmir by reaching out to the people and practicing peaceful and democratic ways to build a new South Asia.

Mufti said that Kashmir would be the “first and the worst victim” if something happens to Pakistan. iftikhar gilani

Riaz Haq said...

New congress will remain Israel ally, according to Jersusalem Post:

WASHINGTON – The Congress that will be installed Wednesday might be losing four of its Jewish members, but Republicans and several pro-Israel advocates insist it will remain as supportive as ever of the Jewish state.

“The members who are taking over will be at least as strong in their pro-Israel inclinations as the people they’re replacing,” maintained Noah Silverman of the Republic Jewish Coalition, adding that “the leadership is stalwart on Israel.”

Though the Democrats’ shellacking in the November election reduced the numbers of Jewish members from 43 to 39 – though a new Democrat Jewish representative and senator will be among them – Silverman pointed out that the sole Jewish Republican, incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor, will be the highest-ranking Jewish member ever.

Silverman predicted that the most visible change on Israel will be the extent to which Congress now challenges the Obama administration over its handling of the Middle East.

“The biggest difference we expect is how bold and how tough an approach we expect to see in Congressional oversight,” he said. The members are “going to be skeptical and ask questions and conduct vigorous oversight of government policies.”

The non-partisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee described the 112th Congress as “expected to be the most pro-Israel Congress ever” in its Near East Report on the incoming legislative class produced after the elections.

“Many of Israel’s strongest supporters were reelected,” according to the AIPAC report. “AIPAC lay leaders and staff have established relationships with every new senator” already and received position papers in which “the new members of Congress express their support for a strong US-Israel relationship.”

But others, particularly Democrats, are concerned about what the new Congress will bring on Israel, especially since many of the freshmen are Tea Party candidates without a long history of involvement in international issues and bent on cutting the budget.

“My greatest concern is two-fold: one is the unknown [members] and second is the ramifications of the deep fiscal conservatism and what that means for foreign aid and America’s involvement in the world,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Already, incoming Republicans are calling for $100 billion in budget cuts, and many have criticized foreign aid expenditures.

Silverman said, though, that Israel funding is an exception since Republicans are looking to cut foreign expenditures that haven’t been used properly and effectively.

“I’m sure that Israel’s [aid] will pass with flying colors,” he said, adding that in his conversations with new members – both Tea Party backers and others – he has heard resounding support for a strong US-Israel relationship.

“Anytime you’ve got new people, certain people don’t know the issues well,” noted Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who heads The Israel Project. “The people I’ve spoken with so far, their instincts, their hearts are in the right place, and they’re eager to learn.”

She referred to a long history of bi-partisan support for Israel that she expects to continue, and said that while key Jewish Democratic supports of Israel will no longer be in their leadership roles, she expects strong replacements, pointing to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen taking over from Howard Berman as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Silverman also said that the new Middle East subcommittee chairman Steve Chabot, who takes over from Gary Ackerman, would “hit the ground running” and that Kay Granger, who will replace Nita Lowey as chair of appropriations’ foreign operations subcommittee, was well-versed in Israel issues from several trips there.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a news report about Obama's nominee for US Defense Secretary saying India has been "financing problems" for Pakistan in Afghanistan:

Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel suggested in a previously unreleased 2011 speech that India has “for many years” sponsored terrorist activities against Pakistan in Afghanistan.

“India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan” in Afghanistan, Hagel said during a 2011 address regarding Afghanistan at Oklahoma’s Cameron University, according to video of the speech obtained by the Free Beacon.


Hagel appears to accuse India of fueling tensions with Pakistan, claiming it is using Afghanistan “as a second front” against Pakistan.

“India for some time has always used Afghanistan as a second front, and India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border,” Hagel says in the speech. “And you can carry that into many dimensions, the point being [that] the tense, fragmented relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been there for many, many years.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a CFR piece by Daniel Markey on US to mediate India-Pakistan disputes:

The Afghan civil war of the 1990s was partly fueled by longstanding Indo-Pakistani rivalry, with different Afghan factions receiving support from different regional neighbors. The United States has a clear interest in avoiding a similar outcome as it disengages from the current war in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, promoting Indo-Pakistani dialogue on Afghanistan will not be easy. The conventional wisdom holds that heavy-handed U.S. diplomacy—exerting pressure or attempting direct mediation—will hit a wall in Islamabad and irritate New Delhi. The new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could reject that argument, but he should first study the discouraging history of U.S. diplomatic efforts in Kashmir. U.S. mediators have repeatedly found that American intervention encourages both sides to play Washington against one another rather than to tackle their disputes head on.

Instead, Kerry could take another run at talks with a wider circle of Afghanistan's neighbors—from Central Asia and the Persian Gulf to China, India, and Russia—as Ambassador Richard Holbrooke attempted early in President Obama's first term. That agenda foundered in part because of Washington's dilemma on how to deal with Afghanistan's western neighbor, Iran. Or, Kerry could shift diplomatic action to a multilateral setting like the United Nations. But the UN has not been a favorite venue for Islamabad or Washington and might also be resisted by New Delhi, for fear of a setting a diplomatic precedent that could be applied to the Kashmir region.

A more promising alternative might be for the United States to invite India, Pakistan, and China into quiet four-way talks. Beijing could be convinced to participate given its increasing concerns about stability in Afghanistan after the United States' anticipated withdrawal in 2014. To succeed, Beijing would then need to allay Islamabad's concerns about talking about Afghanistan with India and Washington would have to counter New Delhi's reluctance to acknowledge China's enhanced role in South Asian affairs.

Riaz Haq said...

NY Times: "Many analysts say that India is unlikely to achieve prominence on the world stage until it reaches some sort of resolution with Pakistan of disputes that have lasted for decades over Kashmir and other issues."

Here's NY Times on India's growing troubles:

...a summer of difficulties has dented India’s confidence, and a growing chorus of critics is starting to ask whether India’s rise may take years, and perhaps decades, longer than many had hoped.

“There is a growing sense of desperation out there, particularly among the young,” said Ramachandra Guha, one of India’s leading historians.

Three events last week crystallized those new worries. On Wednesday, one of India’s most advanced submarines, the Sindhurakshak, exploded and sank at its berth in Mumbai, almost certainly killing 18 of the 21 sailors on its night watch.

On Friday, a top Indian general announced that India had killed 28 people in recent weeks in and around the Line of Control in Kashmir as part of the worst fighting between India and Pakistan since a 2003 cease-fire.

Also Friday, the Sensex, the Indian stock index, plunged nearly 4 percent, while the value of the rupee continued to fall, reaching just under 62 rupees per dollar, a record low.

Each event was unrelated to the others, but together they paint a picture of a country that is rapidly losing its swagger. India’s growing economic worries are perhaps its most challenging.

“India is now the sick man of Asia,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at the financial information provider IHS Global Insight. “They are in a crisis.”


The Indian government recently loosened restrictions on direct foreign investment, expecting a number of major retailers like Walmart and other companies to come rushing in. The companies have instead stayed away, worried not only by the government’s constant policy changes but also by the widespread and endemic corruption in Indian society.

The government has followed with a series of increasingly desperate policy announcements in recent weeks in hopes of turning things around, including an increase in import duties on gold and silver and attempts to defend the currency without raising interest rates too high.

Then Wednesday night, the government announced measures to restrict the amounts that individuals and local companies could invest overseas without seeking approval. It was an astonishing move in a country where a growing number of companies have global operations and ambitions.
The submarine explosion revealed once again the vast strategic challenges that the Indian military faces and how far behind China it has fallen. India still relies on Russia for more than 60 percent of its defense equipment needs, and its army, air force and navy have vital Russian equipment that is often decades old and of increasingly poor quality.

The Sindhurakshak is one of 10 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines that India has as part of its front-line maritime defenses, but only six of India’s submarines are operational at any given time — far fewer than are needed to protect the nation’s vast coastline.

Indeed, India has fewer than 100 ships, compared with China’s 260. India is the world’s largest weapons importer, but with its economy under stress and foreign currency reserves increasingly precious, that level of purchases will be increasingly hard to sustain.

The country’s efforts to build its own weapons have largely been disastrous, and a growing number of corruption scandals have tainted its foreign purchases, including a recent deal to buy helicopters from Italy.

Unable to build or buy, India is becoming dangerously short of vital defense equipment, analysts say....