Time to think Obama’s Afghanistan visit was significant
Ever since the United States launching of the Afghanistan operation over ten years ago, Islamabad remained a principal ally in all matters. Even though the Afpak terminology, coined by Washington, was disliked by Pakistan, it nevertheless showed US intent to take Pakistan along in its Afghan policy.. Hillary Clinton’s first visit, last three days in Pakistan which took her to Lahore too, was meant to carry assure Pakistanis that fundamental changes had taken place in American policies towards us. Pakistan, like the past, would not be dumped this time to face the consequences or aftermath of being an American policy, and that America had decided to treat Islamabad on longer canvass.
But these proved hollow promises. The Raymond Davis issue, its serious consequences, the Abbotabad incident, and finally the Salala outpost attack last November, brought the Pak-American ties to the pit’s edge. Pakistan, instead of taking a dispassionate and realistic review of the series of serious developments, opted for a sentimental apporach.It cut off NATO supplies and ordered the Shamsi airbase to be vacated, demanded apology from the Americans and also a total halt to drone attacks, termins it as infringement of its sovereignty.
True an American policy was the correct thing to ask for. After all the government of Pakistan had to pacify its people, and criticism against drone attacks in our tribal belt, has done more damage than being helpful in curbing terrorism.
But the principal issue was to look at our after long term benefits. It could rightly be said that America should not speak on behalf of India. Its demand for action against Hafiz Saeed for bombing incidents in Mumbai, has nothing to with America. Why should then Hillary chose dance to the tune of Indian music. Her fundamental job is to safeguard and promote American interests. But marketing America does not mean being the mouthpiece of a third country. Islamabad is quite capable of handling its affairs with India or with the rest of the world. The Pakistan foreign office does not require a middle man to buy something which is not indigenous in nature.
American statements, made repeatedly, including President Obama, can only be called uncalled for, and a direct attack on Pak sovereignty. Yes, Washington’s pleas for restoration of NATO routes or for killing terrorists in Miranshah or elsewhere, is something that can be taken with a pinch of salt. Negotiations have been held for
long time now, almost at every level. Pakistan should have shown flexibility in its approach towards a problem, which directly concerns its traditional ally since 1947, realising that America is the world’s solitary super power, but reminding the Americans simultaneously that Islamabad is the capital of a country with 180 million souls and can not be taken just for a ride.
If Pakistan needs to be realistic, so will the Americans too ought. Washington should realise that a relationship based on mutual self respect of each other, and recognising Pakistan’s independence, alone can carr the two countries forward on the road to ensuring world peace. America needs to learn lessons from Iran. Its dream to attack a country next door to Pakistan, remained elusive even till date. It just can not attack a country, which is united and where people are trained to defend themselves. It was foolish since the beginning to even agree to float such an idea, No one bought this in any part of the globe.
Obama visit to Kabul and the strategic treaty signed during that visit with the Afghan President, showed that Pakistan was taken out from being the third party in establishing of peace and stability in the region. Subsequently veiled threats were held out of stopping aid to Pakistan, stoppage of its military hardware, and call to declare Pakistan a failed state. These are still muted voices, and detached from American official thinking, but the very fact that these voices have been raised, is a significant development by itself. Demands have been made by congressmen of sanctions against Pakistan, stopping foreign aid and trade. Whether these will be subscribed to by the Independent world, Europe and Japan especially, who prefer to follow an independent foreign policy, free from American pressure, is an important factor to be watched. However Pakistan will have to open its eyes to the rapid developments, and changing priorities of the American administration. It must solve the problem, striking at the roots of Pak-US ties, without undermining its sovereignty.
Considerable delay has taken place already. If the military establishment desires to solve its problems with America, it should do it quickly. The Pakistani civilian and military establishments should ignore religious parties demand. These parties do matter is being spoilers, but they do not command enough popularity to pose any real challenge to the party in power. Threats from Syed Munawwar Hasan, or Maulana Fazlur Rehman or Maualan Qadri of Sunni Tehreek, need to be taken care of, but need not be given undue importance, General Kayani and his colleagues must keep that in mind. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan can be made to understand intricacies of the issues involved. Both are in need of power, and looking for electoral victories, Neither will be that insensitive to ground realities not to under the complexities of the problems at stake.
Pakistan should handle the issue tactfully, and not allow itself to be deleted from being an important partner in the tripartite dialogue on Afghanistan. That is the crux of the problem and that should be clearly understood.