NEW DELHI: The United States has moved from its customary and fairly casual hands off approach towards relations between India and Pakistan to a more proactive position during the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to both countries recently.

Reacting to the deteriorating bilateral relations between the two neighbours Secretary Kerry said in Islamabad, “The United States will do whatever we can in that effort (to improve relations).” He said it was imperative that “we work together to support a secure, stable Afghanistan.”

Kerry said that the U.S. was ‘deeply concerned” by the increase in cross border violence and called on India and Pakistan to cooperate on trade and counter-terrorism. ‘‘It is profoundly in the interest of Pakistan and India to move this relationship forward,’’ he said. ‘‘This is the hardest kind of work.’’

These remarks constituted a major departure from Washington’s official position in place for a while now that left bilateral relations to the wisdom of both India and Pakistan. And a more casual “ we are here if you need us” approach. The continuing hostilities have been projected by Pakistan as a serious impediment to its operations along the borders with Afghanistan, and clearly the concern is now shared by the US State Department that does not want any hurdles in its exit strategy at this point in time.

A certain war hysteria is now being whipped up in both countries through mainstream news channels. A major television news channel in India has been advocating war for a while now as an ingredient of Indian nationalism and has been holding a ‘teach them a lesson’ discussions at prime time. This has been corroborated by New Delhi’s disinclination to talk with Pakistan even as backroom talks and overtures have come to a virtual standstill.

Pakistan news channels have found a video clip of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval where he spells out his covert plan of action against the neighbouring country saying, “if there is another Mumbai they lose Balochistan.” This has become the subject of excited debate on television, and of articles by former Pakistani diplomats and strategic experts. No one has bothered to point out, or clearly do not know the details, that this video is of an event that took place before Doval was made the National Security Advisor in the new government. And that the speech, now almost a year old was in his capacity as the Director of a think tank and a long since retired Intelligence Bureau chief. The spin being given in the Pakistani talk shows is that its a new threat and serious as it is coming from the NSA who is seen as a powerful figure in the Modi dispensation.

However, Doval’s views are interesting and show a certain mindset that is clearly playing itself out in the BJP led government. There is an element of bragging in the speech with Doval talking, rather out of turn one would think, of covert operations and India’s ability to strike down the enemy. “They (Pakistan) think they know the tricks but so do we,” he says making it very clear that there are ways and ways of making Pakistan bleed.

The interesting points made by Doval just before the Modi government was elected and came to power are:

1. Pakistan is an “enemy”.

2. The strategy to Pakistan should change from the then defensive mode to the defensive offense mode. In this nuclear threshold will have no meaning. And India will go to the point where the offence is coming from.

3. In the defensive offence mode “we start working on the vulnerabilities of Pakistan”. This can be economic, political, isolating them internationally, exposing their terrorist activities, defeating their policies in Afghanistan, making it difficult for them to manage the internal security.

4. Tackle Pakistan and do not accept its arguments. Deal with Afghanistan directly if we need to. “India can tackle the Taliban, they will listen to our Deobandis more than they will to Pakistan. India is very popular in Afghanistan, we do not need Pakistan” to deal with Afghanistan.

5. Smother the terrorists organisations. Through funds, manpower and arms. Cut these off, and flow in one and a half times more money than they are using. After all who are these people, they are mercenaries, they want money, they need jobs.

6. The ISI is a spent force. This can be seen by its complete lack of control over the Taliban and the militant outfits it created.

7. Despite the odds India has contained Pakistan very well and not allowed it to achieve its strategic goals.

8. As for Kashmir, there is no problem as it is more distant from Pakistan than it ever has been.

Parts of the Doval doctrine clearly formulate current policy as well with the defensive posturing being shifted to a more offensive mode. As he explained in his lecture to a university which is causing all the furore at the moment, defensive policy on the part of India allowed Pakistan to determine when it will talk, when it will not adding, “they throw 100 stones at us, we block 90 but the ten that hit us still hurt.” Clearly the hard line shift is intended to ensure that Pakistan walks to India’s terms and conditions and not the other way around. The foreign secretary level talks were called off because of the Pakistan high commissioners meeting with the Hurriyat leaders. Sources here insist that there will be no shift in government policy until Pakistan agrees that it will not talk to the Kashmiri separatists.

Pakistan national security advisor to the Prime Minister, Sartaj Aziz has said there is no question of talks with India unless Kashmir is on the agenda. He has said this repeatedly in recent weeks.

The face off has increased hostilities at the India Pakistan borders with continuous firing on each others positions. Given the US interest in Afghanistan, Islamabad has made it clear that it will not be able to tackle the terror groups in the north west if its army is kept occupied on the eastern border. US Secretary of State John Kerry has made it clear that the US wants peace between the two countries. It remains to be see if and how US President Barack Obama will take it forward when he visits India later this month.