Carrot and stick policy

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Pakistan for the strategic dialogue had both its up and – as expected – down side. As is the norm with all Pak-US interactions, the US adopted its usual carrot and stick policy. The ‘carrot’ in this case was $ 500 million in new aid projects. The strategic dialogue focused on 13 areas covering energy, water, health, education, information, and even export of Pakistani mangoes to the US market. A joint statement issued after the second ministerial meeting said that the US supports Pakistan’s “socio-economic advancement” and the US “will also continue to assist Pakistan in reconstruction and rehabilitation in areas that have been affected by terrorism, especially Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan Agency.” These are all welcome steps of course. That the US is now prepared to aid us in critical areas points to the fact that the Obama administration has sensitised itself to the needs of the people of Pakistan. The US is cognizant of the fact that there is a lot of mistrust overshadowing its relationship with Pakistan. Occasionally dubbed as a ‘fair-weather friend’, the US’s track record in remaining true to its words leaves much to be desired. Ms Clinton acknowledged that there was “a legacy of suspicion”, which “is not going to be eliminated overnight”, but she committed that the US would stand by Pakistan against all those who were acting against the state.

While all this is hunky-dory, there were issues raised by Ms Clinton that sounded more of a warning. She reiterated that a future terrorist attack on the US originating from Pakistani soil would have serious consequences. This is not a new statement but the need to restate it means that the US means business and would not tolerate any non-state actors from Pakistan wreaking havoc on its soil. Both the US and Pakistan have their respective positions on terrorism, the differences on which are diplomatically being papered over. On the issue of the Haqqani network, Ms Clinton has made it clear that the US plans on formally designating it a terrorist organisation. She also cautioned that the Haqqani network may not be carrying out terror attacks in Pakistan presently, but it could turn out to be a grave threat to our security in the future. Her words are also indicative of a cooling down of the Haqqani initiative, i.e. reconciliation between Kabul and the Haqqanis. As for reconciliatory efforts with Taliban foot soldiers in Afghanistan, we see no evidence that it is succeeding. Some may think that a political settlement with the Taliban will accelerate the possibility of a withdrawal of foreign forces, but there is no guarantee of this within the timeframe laid out by the US and the Karzai regime. This has serious significance for Pakistan. How can we be at peace when our neighbourhood is at war?

The US has voiced its ‘concerns’ over Pak-China nuclear cooperation. The proliferation factor has been cited as the main reason for these concerns, but the sub-text remains the US’s discomfort on our close ties with China. The US’s double standards vis-à-vis its civilian nuclear deal with India and turning a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear assets while condemning Iran weaken its credentials as the world’s nuclear conscience. Unless the US adopts a non-discriminatory posture on this issue, it cannot hope to ensure its proliferation concerns will find much purchase.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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