American and Pakistan – a huge gulf in between
IMPRESSIONS BY UDAY SHANKER
Two things stood out as the U S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke at a joint press conference in Washington D C after their meeting at the conclusion of the third round of strategic dialogue between the two nations. One, the United States doesn’t treat Pakistan as an equal and, secondly, there is a vast trust deficit between the two.
These two factors have characterized the relationship of these two countries ever since Pakistan was born. The United States has developed a patronizing attitude toward Pakistan and the rulers in Islamabad have done nothing to dispel that impression. And, this time, too, it was no exception. This kind of relationship will not change irrespective of the fact who rules in Washington and Islamabad.
An atmosphere of perennial hostility between India and Pakistan has a ghost of war looming large over the whole of the sub continent. An extraordinary obsession of the two South Asian nations with each other is causing them more harm than good. It is also consuming their resources and the intellectual and political capital, apart from, of course, eating away the economic and strategic assets. The populations in both the countries are poor and have their problems other than seeing the neighbouring nations through the images of enemies.
India and Pakistan have squandered their opportunities to build bridges and create an atmosphere of trust and economic cooperation. This is against the wish of the majority living on either side of the border. But that is an escapable fact as a minority of vested interests on both sides have chained the real potential and urges of the people and there is no issue in the world which cannot be addressed with sincere and serious effort.
Having sensed this weakness in the two countries, the United States, once superpower in the unilateral world, and still making efforts to stay at that position, it has tried to work out its interests one way or the other. Sometimes, it happens through donations, on other occasions, it is a high-pitched rhetoric of “strategic partner”, “natural alliance” and so on with both India and Pakistan.
With the United States committing an additional $ 2 billion aid package over the next five years for Pakistani army to train and equip its units in counter-terrorism, it also has become clear that Washington is still calling shots and influencing the domestic and foreign policy decisions of Islamabad.
Secretary Clinton emphasized the inequality between the two nations in her remarks so vividly that no one could miss it. She said: “we are two different countries. We have two different traditions. We have two different histories. That does not mean we’re going to agree on everything.”
These observations were made by Secretary Clinton after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister had spoken of “ generational investment”. “The message is that we are going to transform this relationship into a people-centric relationship. We are making an investment.” “ We are making not a five-year investment; we are making an investment which is a generational investment, and that is what we are talking about. That is why when we are talking about water, we are talking about the improvement of productivity in Pakistan. When we talk about social sectors, we are talking about improvement in the quality of life of Pakistan. When we are talking about women empowerment, we are talking about giving 50 percent of the population of Pakistan a voice which they lacked in the past. That is a difference that this relationship is taking a new turn.”
His words were a sort of an extraordinary deference to his American counterpart. First thing that was noticed by everyone was that while Hillary Clinton was addressing Qureshi as (Foreign ) Minister, Qureshi was profusely using the prefix of “ Madam”. It is in the Asian culture to address women with respect, but when it is a matter of public diplomacy, there should have been some sense of equality. It was not there.
“Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you for the leadership you have provided. Thank you for the understanding and thank you for the friendship that you have extended. Working with you has been indeed a wonderful experience,” he said as if Washington was doing a great favour to Islamabad. It would have been better had he been more forceful in reiterating his country’s position in a more affirmative manner as he feebly attempted by saying : “We are determined to transform this relationship and we have collectively put together a unique format of engagement. What you saw today, what happened last night, the day before – visible, invisible – interaction, honest interaction, recognizing the fact that we could have differences – friends do have differences – but knowing the fact that we have to move ahead in our mutual interest. This relationship suits the United States as much as it suits Pakistan. We are both beneficiaries of that. The people of United States have to understand, by investing in Pakistan, United States is a beneficiary. And people of Pakistan have to understand to have United States as an enduring partner, Pakistan gains internationally and regionally.”
And when it came to the human rights, the two perceptions were full of differences. In fact, Qureshi was in an explanatory mode. Clinton observed : “Pakistan is such a close partner with us in the fight against terrorism and in the counterinsurgency efforts that we know are necessary, and we want to support Pakistan in its fight. And to do that, we want to provide the training and equipment that they have asked for.
Now, all U.S. security assistance must be provided in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations, including what are the called the Leahy vetting requirements. And we will continue to ensure that all assistance provided through the multiyear security assistance commitment that I’m announcing today will also comply with U.S. laws and regulations. We take all allegations of human rights abuses seriously and we discuss them with the Government of Pakistan and we follow the law and we work with our partners in Pakistan to deal with any issues that come to our attention.”
The response of Qureshi revealed much more than what he said : “ : Ma’am, when – we saw this report on human rights, we’ve dealt with it, and we’ve dealt with it effectively. Investigation has been ordered by a very senior officer of the Pakistan army. And I can assure you that there’ll be zero tolerance against human rights violations. But we have to first foresee how authentic the report is. We have to verify and see what the truth is. And if there is action required, the Government of Pakistan will take action; that’s one. And we are aware of the Leahy amendment. Two, the Secretary has just said that Pakistan today is the most important partner the United States has in counterterrorism. Now that partner has lost 7,000 lives in counterterrorism, and that partner has been saying that we have capacity needs. We have defense needs. And I’m so happy that this Administration has recognized the legitimate defense needs of Pakistan, discussed – and we’ve had six rounds of talks through the defense working groups and we’ve reached an understanding that equipment, training, is required. And I’m sure with this equipment and this training and this multiyear program, Pakistan will be able to deliver in a more effective manner. You have seen our delivery in Swat, in Malakand, in many agencies of the tribal belt. And we intend to do our job seriously.”
Lastupdate on : Mon, 25 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 25 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 26 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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