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NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

How Pakistan and China are covering Obama’s India visit

By Saptarishi Dutta

A bear hug, a nuclear breakthrough and a promise to deepen defence ties—Obama’s landmark trip to India is off to a flying start.

The US president is in India on a three-day visit—his second official tour of the country—in an attempt to develop a stronger relationship between the two nations.

Already, the bonhomie between Obama and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi—with the two leaders embracing several times in the last 24-hours—has raised eyebrows in many countries. And, India’s neighbours, Pakistan and China, are observing this developing relationship with a hawk’s eye.

Here is a look at what publications in these two countries have to say about the US president’s visit to India.

Dawn (Pakistan)

In its editorial “Obama’s India visit,” Dawn, one of Pakistan’s leading newspapers, argued that India is unfairly targeting Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.

To be sure, there is an element of playing to the gallery involved in all such visits. Indian officialdom and its relatively nationalist media will likely try and elicit further comments on Pakistan from Mr Obama and other American officials that can be used by India to portray Pakistan in an even more negative manner.

If they are to fail in that objective, perhaps some Indian official himself will say something provocative in the next three days to grab the headlines.

Express Tribune (Pakistan)

A news report “Obama’s visit: Pakistan hopes US will raise issue of LoC violations,” dated Jan. 26, says Obama can help reduce the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan.

They (Pakistan authorities) also expect the US leader to persuade Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resume the stalled peace process with neighboring Pakistan. Islamabad has blamed New Delhi for the ceasefire violations along the LoC and working boundary in a bid to distract its security forces from the ongoing fight against terrorism.

Daily Times (Pakistan)

Daily Times described Obama’s visit as a “big development” in its Jan. 25 editorial titled “Pak-India-US triangle.” According to the column, the US needs to build strong relationships with both Indian and Pakistan, and cannot alienate either of the two South Asian countries.

A triangular conundrum exists among Pakistan, India and the US. It is the policy of the US to build friendly relations with both India and Pakistan, and not with one at the expense of the other. During the ongoing recession, the huge potential of the Indian economy has become vital for the US. India is potentially a very big market for the US.

The piece adds:

The US knows the difficulties of Pakistan and it has understood terrorism cannot be eliminated through a military crackdown only. That is why Washington has not discontinued its aid programme for Islamabad despite hostile opposition from the Republican-dominated US Congress. The other factor behind this love-hate relationship is the strategic importance of Pakistan in the region. The US is still dependent on Pakistan’s political, diplomatic and military help to deal with the situation in Afghanistan post-withdrawal.

News International (Pakistan)

In its editorial titled “Obama’s progress,” the newspaper described the US president’s decision to not visit Pakistan as an “implicit snub.” It goes on to add that Obama’s India visit doesn’t augur well for China and Pakistan.

India is currently in a battle with China to be the primary regional power and any signs that the US is decisively shifting towards it will not be taken too well in Beijing. For Pakistan the worry may be that greater economic cooperation will automatically be followed by further political cooperation, leaving Pakistan out in the cold.

Global Times (China)

In an op-ed titled ”India, China mustn’t fall into trap of rivalry set by the West” dated Jan. 26, author Weng Dao argues that the West (including the US) is trying to pit the two Asian superpowers against each other—and neither of them should fall prey to it.

The West is egging India on to be fully prepared for “threats” posed by its large neighbor. Considering the fact that both sides still have territorial disputes and will probably have wider engagement at many levels, this so-called rivalry between India and China will not stop making headlines in Western media.

As both are emerging powers, which have the huge potential of being important forces in the international community, China and India should see more space for cooperation instead of contention. This agreement is fundamental to bilateral relations.

 Xinhua (China)

The Chinese state-run news agency isn’t reading too much into Obama’s India visit, or the camaraderie he shares with Modi. In an op-ed titled “U.S., India unlikely on same page,” journalist Tian Dongdong writes:

However, the shortened three-day visit is more symbolic than pragmatic, given the long-standing division between the two giants, which may be as huge as the distance between them.

Three days are surely not enough for Obama and Modi to become true friends, given their hard differences on issues like climate change, agricultural disputes and nuclear energy cooperation.

The piece concludes:

With such a long list of differences on the table, Obama will face a hard job to have his Indian friends on the same page.

China Daily (China)

In an op-ed titled “What Obama’s visit means to China,” Swaran Singh, a professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, says Modi’s efforts to forge close ties with major superpowers of the world can be a tricky task:

Although India’s DNA will never allow it to become a close ally of the US and its leadership can never be imprudent enough to adopt a policy of containing China, there is no doubt that China’s continuous rise has become a matter of concern for New Delhi.

Although it could lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings, Modi sees no contradiction in pursuing friendly ties with both, the US and China. Calibrating various competing interests and balancing various competing domestic constituencies calls for bold initiatives at home and diplomatic finesse in foreign policy.

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