India continues to reel from last week’s Mumbai attacks, and with the finger of blame pointed squarely at Pakistan tensions between the two nations are at their worst level since 2002. As the two nations rally support and prepare to position growing amounts of their armed forces to their already tense border, the United States is looking to defuse the situation.
And indeed, the US government has a strong interest in keeping relations between the two nuclear-armed nations relatively calm, as it pressures Pakistan to take an ever more aggressive role fighting militants along its long, porous border with Afghanistan. Pakistan appears unwilling to consider splitting its military between two fronts, and officials have said the more serious peril of the Indian military is its top priority. With most of Pakistan’s military already committed, the forces being sent to the Indian border must necessarily come out of Operation Lionheart, the joint US, Pakistani border campaign.
But the ability of the US to manage ties between the two nations is in growing doubt. Domestically, India’s government is under increasing pressure to respond forcefully after the latest attack. Beyond that, the credibility of the US in arguing for a measured response to perceived terrorist threats in Pakistan is severely hampered by its repeated unilateral strikes over the public objections of the Pakistani government. Though Pakistan seems largely resigned to the continued US strikes, it seems unlikely to give the same benefit of the doubt to long-time rival India, making the situation a growing concern.