Decoding United States’ Haley

Decoding United States’ Haley

In a statement that could be held to be a harbinger of United States approach towards South Asia, the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley stated that ““It’s absolutely right that this administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward”. Amb Haley’s statement indeed comes as a surprise given the rather isolationist instincts of the Trump Administration and the general reluctance to involve the United States in “faraway” conflicts. There is also another context to Haley’s remarks: the Trump administration has indicated a retrenchment of United States’ commitment(s)- financial and other- to the United Nations. This has been interpreted as downplaying United States’ “ soft power” and diplomacy. Why then has Amb Haley stated what she has? And what do her statements mean? The statements come in the wake of doctrinal review of sorts of the nuclear doctrines of India and Pakistan. While India has not disavowed its “ no first use” policy, but it has reformulated its strategy in dealing with Pakistan. This reformulation termed as “ Cold Start” aims to deal with Pakistan- either in the event of a conventional or non- conventional attack on India-, by slicing Pakistani territory – or , in other words, dismembering the country. Pakistan , on its part, has responding by developing an arsenal of small, tactical nuclear weapons. Both these developments give short shrift to the conventional nuclear deterrence paradigm that obtains between the two countries. In the new schemata, the decision making calculus that governs both India and Pakistan in terms of nuclear weapons use, is hostage to either miscalculation or even adventurism. The prospect of even a “localized” nuclear exchange cannot then be ruled out.( This is not as oxymoronish as it seems). Given that this scenario will not only be disastrous for the region and even the world in terms of human , economic, ecological and other costs and will entail system instability, pre-empting it( not in the conventional sense of pre-emption in international law and politics) might have concentrated the minds of the Trump administration’s strategists and national security advisers and hence account for Haley’s remarks. Two major conclusions flow from this development. One is that , contrary to popular opinion and analysis, United States under Trump will not be as isolationalist as has been supposed. The Trump administration is likely to be activist but the nature and form of this activism cannot be deciphered with clarity at this point in time. Second, given this putative or indicative activism, states across the world cannot take each other for granted. This has a resonance for the conflict dyad between India and Pakistan. Neither country is no entirely off the radar, so to speak. What goes on within and without, will be , in the least monitored. What, given this, should be the key take away for both Pakistan and India? Good, prudent , peaceful and peacable relations is the obvious answer. Key to all is Kashmir.

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