Pakistan Stumps Us Again
Last Updated : 16 Feb 2009 09
The deception is complete. The entire world can see it, yet we refuse to acknowledge it. Once again Pakistan has conned us into an unenviable corner, but not without some muted acquiescence by others. It played its cards in a masterly fashion. Initially, after the Mumbai attacks, when India was livid and the international revulsion high, it pretended injured innocence, promising the fullest cooperation to India. But behind the scenes it was busy cultivating the masters of the world and converting them to its view that India protests too much, and far too often, without good reason.
With India, it grew steadily bolder. Over time it gave up its passive stance and started bantering, engaging the Indian leadership in a slanging match of calculated attrition.
During the last few weeks, Indian people were witness to a college like debate via the media. It defies belief that we allowed ourselves to be led into such a trap.
Once Pakistan had achieved its first objective of temporising, it grew more brazen.
More importantly, the masters of the world weighed in subtly on its side. Pakistan was no longer in the guilty corner.
If any proof of this dramatic turnaround was needed, it has come loud and clear in a series of public pronouncements recently.
A few days ago in an interview to the NBC network President Obama said, “Afghanistan has to be stabilised to ensure the stability of Pakistan.” With that single pronouncement he shifted the goal posts.
It was with the objective of eliminating terrorism that US had attacked Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Now Obama seems to have set his sights on an altogether different horizon. Now, stability of Pakistan, more than anything else, is his top priority.
Privately that message was conveyed even more bluntly to President Karzai.
This happened before Obama as sworn in.
According to published reports when vice president-elect Joe Biden was visiting Afghanistan in early January 2009, President Karzai spoke to him at length about the difficulties that Afghanistan was facing due to Pakistan’s actions. Biden told him brusquely, “Pakistan is fifty times more important to America than Afghanistan!” Biden is not a first time Senator. He is an experienced politician, and he is deeply involved in the mysterious world of foreign policy where every nuance, each word is pondered over and debated. So he must have known that the news of his brush off to the Afghan President would get around.
That statement contains a message for us too. If Pakistan scores that much higher, and if that is the American priority with regard to Afghanistan which till recently was central to America’s global fight against terror, the natural question one must ask is where does that place India? But we are both unable and unwilling to see the writing on wall. Obama seems to have opted for the Pakistani route to solve its Afghanistan imbroglio. It has been influenced by the view propagated by the Pakistani establishment that they are the good guys and the terrorists who are giving them a bad name are: fighting for a cause like Kashmir, terrorising Pakistan as well; and besides Kashmir the other root causes of terror are poverty and illiteracy so the world needs to help Pakistan economically.
Joe Biden sponsored bill proposes to provide $15 billion in assistance over the next 10 years to Pakistan to strengthen civilian institutions.
Still, if there was any doubt, the Munich Security Conference (February 6-8) provided incontrovertible proof of American intent. Vice President Joe Biden’s speech was to be the highlight of this conference.
His statement was eagerly awaited as it was going to be the first articulation of Obama administration’s worldview at an international forum. Biden declared, “No strategy for Afghanistan can succeed without Pakistan.” He added, “We must all strengthen our cooperation with the people and the government of Pakistan, help them stabilise the tribal areas and promote economic development and opportunities throughout the country.” This could well have been written by a Pakistani.
Yet we keep our blinkers on. At the same Munich conference our recent bete-noire, the British foreign secretary David Miliband had this to say, “…Yet the paradox is that while our nations (in Europe) are more peaceful and prosperous than ever, our citizens do not feel secure. Why? Because they know how the breakdown in law and order in Pakistan or Afghanistan can threaten their security in London, Hamburg or Istanbul.” This should be considered along with another development where the Britishers are taking out advertisements in Pakistani media, the effect of which is virtually to plead that UK should not be attacked because it has so many people like them living there.
How do we term these developments? Self-interest above everything else? Will self preservation be the primary motive of international discourse? If that is so then why are we expecting the international community to fight our battle? Moreover this new trend is also reflective of the concerns reportedly expressed by the CIA to President Obama that British born Pakistani terrorists who have extensive links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are the biggest threat to the US. Read between the lines the message is clear — West would not like to do anything that upsets Pakistan and consequently has security implications for people in west.
The Munich Conference was also addressed by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister of Pakistan. So soon after the Mumbai attacks any other leader would have squirmed, perhaps even called the attack a ‘national shame’. But not the Pakistani foreign minister; he was hectoring and conciliatory in turn. He also prescribed the course that West should adopt. His focus wasn’t just on terrorism, he included extremism too. His diagnosis identified root causes such as Kashmir as leading to terrorism.
And in his prescriptive advice he asked the West to: adopt a regional approach; avoid overemphasis on military solution; people must have the ownership in governance; provide priority to education and development with due regard to the religious sentiments; and there should be renewed efforts against the drug trade. Isn’t it interesting that the Obama administration is thinking along similar lines? Eventually it may also mean that the Kashmir issue becomes a focus of that regional approach.
Already, the world has moved on since 26/11 and India has been successfully stonewalled by Pakistan. Despite our threats of keeping all our options open, time has shown that we are option-less.
The terror masters and their actors must be pleased with the turn of events. Now they can plan their next attack, as and when they fancy. The time may have come for us to face some blunt basics of the real world; where Pakistan successfully employs a large element of hypocrisy in its dealings with others
About the author:
Rajiv Dogra is a former Ambassador