Good cop, bad cop

The US is a master at playing games, especially when it comes to a good cop, bad cop routine. Pakistan has been at the receiving end of this policy for decades. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke played the role of the good cop in Washington after his recent visit to South Asia. He said that his “greatest concern is to help the Pakistanis with their economic and energy problems”. Mr Holbrooke’s remarks are much appreciated since Pakistan is indeed going through its worst economic and energy crises. Besides, a country’s economy cannot be stabilised without addressing its energy needs. American help in this area would certainly be of great importance. Investors do not invest in a country with a weak justice system. We must formulate a policy framework to address this issue and make Pakistan an investment-friendly country. Richard Holbrooke further said that to help Pakistan deal with the water crisis, a water resources task force has been set up by the Obama administration. It is hoped that among other things this task force would be able to exercise its influence or play a role in resolving our water issues with India.

On the terrorism front, Mr Holbrooke was of the opinion that there have been many positive developments in the region, to the extent that his chief concern in Pakistan is not extremism any more. He said that Pakistan is on the right track in combating terrorism. This should give a morale boost to the Pakistan Army, which is all set to launch a military operation in North Waziristan. As for the rumours that Pakistan has arrested top Taliban leaders in a bid to insert itself centre stage into the Afghan peace process, Mr Holbrooke rejected this as the usual conspiracy theories. Now that the dialogue process with the Afghan Taliban is imminent and the fate of Afghanistan will be settled in the light of these negotiations, it is all but inevitable that Pakistan would face a great setback vis-à-vis its ‘strategic depth’ policy if it does not become a negotiation conduit. Pakistan has a well deserved reputation of being a mentor of militants in the region. That is why suspicion has dogged the Pak-US relationship. The Americans saw no alternative since 9/11 to nudging and cajoling Pakistan to take on the militants. The whole scenario changed after the local Taliban turned against the military and invited the retaliatory offensives the army is in the middle of in FATA.

Holbrooke rejected India’s claim that recent terror strikes in Kabul specifically targeted the Indians and that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) was behind these attacks. LeT has of course denied its involvement in the Kabul attack. Whether Pakistan has any role in targeting Indians in Afghanistan is a separate matter, but it cannot be denied that the military establishment is even more India-obsessed now than in the past. It seems as if Mr Holbrooke is trying his best to ensure that the Kabul attack does not overtake the peace process the US is trying to kick off to bring India and Pakistan on the same page, at least on the Afghanistan front. In order to bring normalcy to the region before its troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US is trying its best to praise and please the Pakistani establishment to keep it steadily advancing on its present anti-militancy course.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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