Key administration officials have confirmed that the UNSC issue will be on Obama’s agenda when he comes calling. The President is expected to announce an incremental American support to India’s candidature during his address to the joint session of parliament, depending on New Delhi’s receptiveness to resolving the Kashmir tangle. The clearest insight into Obama’s thinking on the matter comes from Bob Woodward’s latest book, Obama’s War, in which top US policymakers are shown mulling over defusing the Kashmir situation as part of an exit strategy for the US from the Af-Pak theatre. “Why can’t we have straightforward talks with India on why a stable Pakistan is crucial?’’ Obama is reported as musing at one meeting. “India is moving toward a higher place in its global posture. A stable Pakistan would help.’’ Implicit in the rumination is the idea that settling the Kashmir tangle will mollify Pakistan where, US officials say, hardliners are using the unresolved issue as an excuse to breed an army of terrorists aimed at bleeding India.
External affairs minister S M Krishna brought up the H1B visa fee hike and the outsourcing ban issues during his meeting with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Washington on Tuesday.
Riedel says the President’s challenge is to quietly help Islamabad and New Delhi work behind the scenes to get back to the deal Singh and Musharraf had negotiated. “He will have a chance to work this subtly when he visits India.’’ But Riedel and other US policymakers portrayed in Woodward’s book also recognize that the biggest hurdle to a settlement is a hardline Pakistani military. While the civilian leadership will like to embrace the deal, “it is unclear if the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, is on board’’, it says. Woodward’s book shows that most top US officials, save Admiral Mike Mullen, believe Kayani to be a closet jihadi and a two-faced “liar’’ intent on perpetuating war with India. “I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m India-centric,’’ Kayani is quoted as telling US officials in one exchange. Although three top cabinet principals from India—S M Krishna, defence minister A K Antony, and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee—are in the US this week and next, exchanges on the UNSC and Kashmir are said to be taking place between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh through trusted interlocutors such as NSA Shivshankar Menon, who is also in Washington DC this week.