Requisite change

“We have made it clear to the Pakistani government that confronting violent extremists of all sorts is in its interest. We do not believe that there are any terrorists who should be given safe haven or a free pass by any government,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her recent visit to India. Ms Clinton said the US was ‘encouraged’ by the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan as talks were “the most promising approach” to build more confidence between the two nuclear-armed states. On the one hand, Ms Clinton appreciated the Indo-Pak dialogue process but on the other she made it clear that the US would not tolerate the terror threat posed by Pakistan-based jihadist groups. Ms Clinton condemned the recent Mumbai attacks and assured that India and the US “are allies in the fight against violent extremist networks. And homeland security is a high priority and a source of increasing partnership”. This was a clear message to Pakistan that just because it is the US’s frontline ally in the war on terror does not mean India does not figure in the equation.

There is a great contrast between the US’s state of relations with Pakistan and India. India is now considered a strategic partner by the Americans. This has surely been a cause of worry for the Pakistani establishment but if looked at from a global perspective, it does not come as a surprise. India’s economy has flourished for the past many decades and its clout in international politics is increasing. The US considers India as a counterweight to Chinese influence in the region. Indian markets can offer US industry new and huge prospects. On the other hand, Pakistan relies heavily on foreign aid. Our economy is getting weaker with easy passing day. Pakistan is important for the international community, however, because of its role in the war on terror. Post-Abbottabad raid, even that role has come into question. The support given to the Afghan Taliban by Pakistan’s security establishment is an open secret. Pakistan continues to persist with its ‘strategic depth’ policy to counter Indian influence in the region. Despite the diminishing returns of this disastrous policy, our military has not given up on it.

It was in this regard that Indian Minister for External Affairs, S M Krishna, said: “We have impressed on the US and other countries that have a major presence in Afghanistan that it is necessary for them to continue in Afghanistan.” A weak Afghan government cannot function without US and NATO support. Troops withdrawal could in effect turn out to be a problem for the region as many fear Pakistan will get more mileage once the foreign forces retreat. But what the Pakistani establishment has so far failed to realise is that any power-sharing deal between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban would in essence strengthen the Pakistani Taliban, who are waging open warfare against the state. The frequency of cross-border attacks from the Afghan border has increased considerably. Even though Afghan President Hamid Karzai has assured his full support to President Zardari in battling extremist elements, the truth is that many areas in Afghanistan along the border remain un-policed. The need of the hour is that Pakistan should stop its overt and covert support to all terrorist networks. Not only is it in the interests of the region, it will benefit Pakistan the most. The terrorists have bled us dry. High time we stop pampering these Frankenstein monsters.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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