Obama's South Asia Brain – Bruce Riedel – to review the US South Asia policy

Last updated on Feb 11, 2009

Posted on Feb 11, 2009

Obama has asked Bruce Riedel to conduct an inter-agency review of American policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Who is Bruce Riedel?  Well, he has a very interesting background and his history gives some insight into the direction in to where Obama may be headed as regards his policy to South Asia and specifically the Terrorism that we all have come to experience – specially in context of the Mumbai Attacks.  Look at what he says in an interview with Spiegel about Pakistan and that area – India-Pakistan and South Asia – in the aftermath of Mumbai Attacks on 26/11:

I have said on many occasions that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world: International terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the threat of nuclear war, drugs, democracy deficit and Islam all come together in an extraordinarily combustible way. India and Pakistan have already fought three wars and just five years ago were on the brink of a fourth. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail. Nevertheless, South Asia is the most likely place where in our lifetimes we might see a nuclear war.

Riedel had last worked on this region during the Bill Clinton presidency when he actually designed the reaction and response of US towards the Kargil conflict.  He had called the bluff of Pakistan and specifically Musharraf, which he details in his path-breaking article – “American Diplomacy and the 1999 Kargil Summit” (attached with this post).

How different the response of Clinton administration was to Kargil has been discussed by Reidel in his article:

I laid out our position in on the record interview at the Foreign Press Center in Washington. The President then called both leaders in mid-June and sent letters to each pressing for a Pakistani withdrawal and Indian restraint.
The Pakistanis and Indians were both surprised by the U.S. position: Pakistan because Islamabad assumed the U.S. would always back them against India and India because they could not believe the U.S. would judge the crisis on its merits, rather than side automatically with its long time Pakistani ally. Both protagonists were rooted in the history of their half-century conflict and astounded that the U.S. was not bound by the past.
For the previous fifty years, with a few exceptions, the United States had been tied to Pakistan, while India had been aligned with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Pakistan had been the take off point for U2s flying over Russia and for Henry
Kissinger’s trip to China. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s Pakistan had been the U.S.’ critical ally in aiding the mujahedin freedom fighters against communism, along with Saudi Arabia. In 1971 the Nixon Administration
had “tilted” toward Pakistan and against India during the war that led to Bangladesh’s freedom. Although U.S.-Pakistani relations had cooled significantly after 1990 when the U.S. determined Islamabad was building a nuclear arsenal (leading to an aid suspension), the popular and elite perception in both countries was that the U.S. was more pro-Pakistani than pro-Indian. The imposition of tough sanctions on both countries in 1998 (so-called Glenn sanctions) after they tested nuclear weapons had not altered the perception of American bias for Pakistan.

Reference Links:

1. Obama asks Kargil expert to review Pak-Afghanistan policy
2. ‘A Nightmare We Cannot Afford in the 21st Century’

Attachment:  American Diplomacy and 1999 Kargil Summit.pdf

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