NEW DELHI – On her recent trip to China, Bangladesh, and India, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was eager to trumpet America’s “New Silk Road” strategy, which she unveiled last September. But the Silk Road was a trade route, whereas knife-edge diplomacy dominated Clinton’s Asian tour.
Nothing about Clinton’s trip was as path-breaking as her visit earlier this spring to Myanmar, where she met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein to lend her support to their delicate political dance, which may yet bring the country into the global democratic fold. Her trip opened with the always-tense annual US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which was threatened at the start by the plight of the blind human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who had taken refuge in the United States’ embassy in Beijing.
But Chen was not the only one to upstage Clinton; her boss, President Barack Obama, did so as well, landing at midnight in Kabul, where he executed a strategic pact with Afghanistan, flying back to the US before dawn. Was this – a negotiation without her participation – the defining event of Clinton’s Asian fortnight?
Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, describes the pact as “providing a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, (and) a document for the development of the region.” But, while the new pact does clarify America’s post-2014 posture toward Afghanistan, and to some extent has assuaged India’s concerns about that troubled land’s future, anxiety in Pakistan has only deepened. Only time will tell whether the pact boosts stability in the region.