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India's Empty Holbrooke Power Play

It may be an interesting demonstration of India's clout that New Delhi managed to strip Indian issues from Richard Holbrooke's official mandate as a special envoy to deal with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But it's nonsense to think this reflects any substantive change in Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's diplomatic plans. The problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan are as intertwined with India as Lebanon is intertwined with Iran and Syria. Indeed Afghanistan in many ways is a proxy battlefield for the ongoing rivalry between India and Pakistan--the ISS has historically been fond of the Taliban in part because they are seen as a useful buffer to Indian encroachment in that country. And many a Pakistani militant, whipped into a fervor over the India-Pakistan Kashmir dispute and given military/terrorist training to join that battle, winds up enlisted in other forms of jihad targeted against the Pakistani government or U.S. interests abroad. So, congratulations to India for modifying Holbrooke's official title and the diplomatic language used at his Foggy Bottom rollout last week. But New Delhi should be ready to hear and see quite a lot of the indefatigable diplomat in the months to come.

--Michael Crowley