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Pakistan Not Fans Of India's Parading While Obama Present


So strengthened ties between the U.S. and India are celebrated in India, but in neighboring Pakistan, a frosty reaction to President Obama's visit. Relations between India and Pakistan have long been hostile. And they are especially troubled right now.

We're joined by NPR's Philip Reeves, who is in the capital, Islamabad. And, Philip, first, what are Pakistanis saying about President Obama's visit to India?

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Well, there's an acute bout of anxious navel-gazing going on here. And the general feeling can be summed up in one word - peak. Pakistanis are peeved that President Obama's been to India twice but hasn't made an official visit here. The bear hug, which you might have seen on TV between the president and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has gone down pretty badly here. Modi isn't well liked, generally seen as a Hindu arch nationalist. And as you say, relations between India and Pakistan are in pretty poor shape right now, not least because of Kashmir, the dispute at the heart of their decades-long conflict.

BLOCK: So overall, peevishness in Pakistan, but anything official? Any official reaction coming from the Pakistani government?

REEVES: Not so far in words, but certainly in deeds. It's no coincidence that Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif's next door in China on an official visit. The military here plays a key role, by the way, in foreign policy. And today, the army's media people are highlighting, you know, this China trip. They circulated a tweet quoting a top Chinese official describing Pakistan as an irreplaceable, all-weather friend. That wording plays into the belief that the U.S. is a fair-weather friend.

BLOCK: A lot to interpret from one tweet.

REEVES: Yes, indeed, but that's what people do here. It's a national sport almost, gazing at the language of diplomacy and trying to figure out whether you've gained or lost in that.

BLOCK: Well, Philip, we heard Scott Horsley mention just now that President Obama and Prime Minister Modi have reached a breakthrough agreement on nuclear power. How in particular was that received?

REEVES: No one's really surprised. It's been years in the making. But Pakistan doesn't like anything that adds to India's ability to acquire nuclear technology, whether it's from, you know, the U.S. or anywhere else. Its nuclear arms race with India has been going on for years, and it has been very costly. They're also very well aware that the U.S. would never offer them a deal like this for fear of the wrong stuff landing in the wrong hands.

But I think there's another more basic sentiment in play here. This deal helps India generate more energy, and that kind of hurts here in Pakistan. The country's struggling to keep the lights on. There's just been a huge, pretty much nationwide electricity black out, and there are power outages everywhere, every day.

BLOCK: Well, Philip, overall, when you think about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and especially issues such as creating stability in Afghanistan, how much of a setback might this visit to India be or is it not so much?

REEVES: Well, the U.S.'s relationship with Pakistan's always been a roller coaster. It hit a very low point in 2011 with the discovery of Osama bin Laden in a garrison city here and the U.S. operation that killed bin Laden. Recently, it's been on an upward trajectory. The mood, music around Secretary of State Kerry's recent visit was positive. And the U.S. is happy. Pakistan has been, for some months now, involved in a big military offensive against the Taliban in the tribal belt. America's been calling for that for a long while, and it's happened. The massacre of all those schoolchildren - 130 schoolkids in an army school in Peshawar - helped draw the two sides closer in the, you know, war on Islamist militancy. I think if history is any guide, this relationship will carry on being a roller coaster, and there'll be more bumps in the road.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Philip Reeves in Islamabad. Philip, thanks so much.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.