Hillary widens Pak-US distrust

By General Retd Mirza Aslam Beg

Diplomats are very careful in their words while delivering political speeches and also dealing with the leadership of other countries. They are polite, articulate and courteous, and convey even very tough messages with a touch of grace. But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on her recent visit to Pakistan, appeared much emotionally disturbed, displaying a strange logic hit out to “decrease the historic distrust.” She said:

  • “Should an attack on the US be traced to Pakistan, it would have a very devastating impact.” This means, another demonstration of “shock and awe” over Pakistan as on Afghanistan in 2001, but with a mild difference. That India would also join the US, as it is also having jitters after the Mumbai attack.
  • “I believe, Mullah Omar and Osama are in Pakistan and you know they are here. Don’t double cross. Help us to get them.” For over nine years, the Americans and their allies have been trying to get them and having failed, now expect the Pakistan army to ‘produce the rabbits from the hat’, failing which Pakistan has to remain prepared to face the wrath of the sole superpower of the world.
  • Three: “Pak-China nuclear deal is a matter of great concern. We can trace the export of nuclear information and material from Pakistan, through all kinds of channels, to many different countries. We are fulfilling our commitment, but it is not a one-way street.” Since Pakistan and China have explained umpteen times that the nuclear deal is fully covered by the IAEA guarantees, it should not be a matter of concern for any one. But as this is a case of the ‘lion and the lamb’, Pakistan has to be prepared to face the onslaught of the “global-anti-nuclear-proliferation-regime comprising US, Israel and India”, ready to take out its nuclear assets and capabilities.
  • Four: “Pakistan is double crossing us in dealing with the terrorists. They are shielding the Haqqani group in particular, who are causing all the trouble for us in Afghanistan. It is time for Pakistan now to make sure that we are on the same page on Afghanistan” and “there is a gulf between how the Pakistanis define the good and bad Taliban and what Washington calls reconcilable and irreconcilable Taliban.”

As if, this was not enough, Pakistan and Afghanistan delegates were huddled together at Islamabad to sign the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, while Hillary stood behind like a headmistress with a rod in hand, to ensure compliance. The entire process was completed in such a hurry, that the Pakistan’s representatives did not get the time to discuss the matter with Parliament, or at least with the members of the Cabinet. And our PM, who should not have been there, in any case, stood at the signing of the agreement with a cynical smile on his face.

Ms Clinton scored another point, by forcing the Pakistani government to restore the privilege of our Ambassador in Washington, to issue one year multiple visit visas’ to the Americans visiting Pakistan. This privilege was, however, misused in the past by the Americans working for Blackwater and other such shady organisations. It means that the old ‘cloak and dagger’ game is on, once again.

It is not only Clinton, but also Admiral Mike Mullen, who tried to decrease the “historic gap” when he said: “Mumbai carnage had demonstrated how a small group of extremists could have a strategic impact. I’ve worried a great deal about a repeat attack of something like that and am making sure this doesn’t happen again. But there is an implication that there is zero-sum game here, that if we increase our interactions with Pakistan we are somehow diminishing India. I can’t even imagine why anyone would think that India is being diminished. Our goal is to have full transparency with India on what’s going on in Afghanistan. The links between the ISI and the Taliban are a problem in this respect.”

Anyway, after Pakistan Clinton’s next stop was Kabul where she met heads from 70 countries who were trying to find the resources to rebuild Afghanistan. Strangely enough, she was totally mellowed down and in a reconciliatory mood. She remarked: “The July 2011, date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve. The transition period is too important to push off indefinitely. This date is the start of the new phase, not the end of our involvement.” The US Secretary’s statement, read in conjunction with Karzai’s proposal, is in fact a tacit acceptance of the first two demands of Mullah Omar, as the pre-conditions for talks. The demands were:

  • A definite time of withdrawal from Afghanistan (which is July 2011 and 70 countries attending the Kabul Conference are a witness to it).
  • Release of 50 Taliban leaders in the custody of the occupation.

This indicates a big shift in the US stance which is to enter into dialogue with the Taliban. The meltdown has started that will take over the “American resolve to maintain its involvement till the year 2014” and the US administration has realised that raising an Afghan army of 170,000 and a police force of 30,000, as a bulwark against the Taliban, is not workable. The reality has been accepted that without the participation of the Taliban, who have won the war and are in majority, no stable government can be formed in Afghanistan.

What role Pakistan can play, to ease out the exit process of the occupation forces and facilitate the establishment of a stable government, is the moot question. There is a big trust deficit between the Afghan Taliban and the Government of Pakistan, its army and ISI. In addition, there is no immediate solution to bridge this gap and no visible effort is being made to achieve this purpose. However, Karzai appears to be playing a more sensible game. He has succeeded in gaining the acceptance of the first two demands of the Taliban and through this process he may well succeed on a ceasefire, followed by a loe jirga, to decide the future of Afghanistan. As of now, he appears to be a safe bet, while Pakistan has more than enough at hand to respond to Clinton’s charge sheet.

However, in her attempt to decrease the “historic distrust”, Ms Clinton’s utterances can be taken as a befitting gift to Pakistan, especially when she entitled to Pakistan as “the most allied ally, the strategic partner and the non-NATO ally of all times.” Yet, we would say: “As far as criticism is concerned, we don’t resent that, unless it is absolutely biased” (John Vorster). Nevertheless, Hillary’s criticism and allegations are outrightly biased, lacking substance and reality.

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan.

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