Washington: The United States should
support India on the border dispute with China and it needs to
talk frankly with New Delhi about the future of Pakistan and
its role in the region, a top American scholar said on Monday.
Stephen P Cohen, of the prestigious Brookings
Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, said that it
is possible that the Obama administration would endorse
India’s candidacy as a permanent member of the UN Security
When asked about the recent reference to South Asia
and Indo-Pak relations in the US-China joint statement, Cohen
said Indians are taking it more seriously than the Americans.
"I have talked to my China experts here, they try to
spin this as a normal American visit to China. Indians
presumably are more warmed up and more concerned about the
Chinese statements and actions on the border, which I think
could be very serious," said Cohen, a well-known expert on
"Americans are hoping that this would go away and
they would not have to choose between two friends. But I think
we should have a policy and support India on the border
dispute," Cohen said.
Terming it as normal meeting between India and the
United States, Cohen said there are no big issues at stake at
the US-India Summit on Tuesday.
"There is a general agreement on a whole range of
concerns and issues. There is disagreement in some. But these
are like as is the relationship between normal states," he
said, adding, "What is also significant that there is no big
issue likely to be discussed or strategic concerns for both
Noting that India with China and Pakistan, along with
the US are involved in the Af-Pak region, Cohen doubted that
the issue is going to be discussed.
"I doubt there is going to be any understanding," he
"It is possible that US may come up in support of
India’s seat on the UN Security Council. But that wouldn’t
mean very much as other States are opposed to it," he said,
adding there is disagreement on climate change between the two
Of the view that Af-Pak is unlikely to be discussed
between the two countries, Cohen rued that there is no one in
the Obama administration who is capable of looking at India`s
role/contribution in Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular.
The mandate of Richard Holbrooke, the Special US
Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said is
"I do not think there is anybody in the government who
is looking at South Asia strategically – India’s role in
Afghanistan, the consequences of the collapse of Pakistan, the
possibility of normal relationship between India and Pakistan.
I think these are issues the administration has not dealt at
it yet," he argued.
As the Obama administration is about to complete its
one year in office, Cohen said: "I think they should have gone
to it by now".
"I am not talking about American intervention. I am
talking about sitting and having conversations with the
Indians about the likely outcome in Pakistan, what we can do
to prevent bad outcomes and encourage good outcomes," the top
US scholar underlined.
Cohen said he is not sure if the US has the mechanism
in place to have an intense private discussion with India
about these kinds of issues.
"I am not talking about Kashmir, but about larger
issues – Pakistan’s future, India’s role in Afghanistan and
China’s role in all of these and talking to the Indians quite
frankly about all their concerns," he said.
The American scholar underlined that India is a
democracy and "we have a lot of common interest".
Observing that the US does not want a see a change in
the Asian order, Cohen said: "At the back of everybody mind is
the possibility that India might be a balancer to China. A lot
of this is up to the Indian side to decide. There is much
indecision on the Indian side… what kind of role they want to
The Indian response to all this, Cohen said is:
"probably to kick it down to the road and not commit
themselves one way or the other".
He said the default option for India is "strategic
absence". "While its absence is a good thing in some regard,
but I think India have long term concerns," Cohen underlined.
He said India is acquiring capabilities now, "both
political strategic and military to be able to withstand in a
positive way that I can see."