Pakistani Objections

Posted on July 22, 2009. Filed under: Punditry |

Well, things looked good, a bit weird, a bit strained, for a little while, but they looked good.
Kasab confessed. There was a joint-statement at Sharm al-Sheikh. Clinton came, spoke, signed and left.
Those things might have their problems, like what’s Kasab’s endgame? Why confess now? Or how badly written was that joint statement, and what was the point of suddenly plugging Balochistan into the mix after all these years? (Manasi Kakatkar actually has some pretty good points on why Singh might’ve agreed to this.)
And there were plenty of repercussions to that Clinton visit, from the arguments over what should be done over climate change, to the signing of the End User Defense agreement, and the subsequent walkout of opposition in response.
But a new report in today’s NYT, reminds us that ultimately, as far as Pakistan is concerned, we’re still playing the same old game,

Pakistani officials have told the Obama administration that the Marines fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will force militants across the border into Pakistan, with the potential to further inflame the troubled province of Baluchistan, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

Pakistan does not have enough troops to deploy to Baluchistan to take on the Taliban without denuding its border with its archenemy, India, the officials said. Dialogue with the Taliban, not more fighting, is in Pakistan’s national interest, they said.

The report goes on to say that the Pakistani government will continue to consider India as it’s top priority (security-wise, that is), whereas the Taliban could even be potential allies once the Americans leave Afghanistan.
They’re actually saying this to Richard Holbrooke, the American special envoy to the region, at a crucial juncture when the US-led attack on the Helmand province is just beginning to show some early results. And this is the country that America is giving billions of dollars in aid to. Great.

Even as Obama administration officials praise the operations, they express frustration that Pakistan is failing to act against the full array of Islamic militants using the country as a base.

Instead, they say, Pakistani authorities have chosen to fight Pakistani Taliban who threaten their government, while ignoring Taliban and other militants fighting Americans in Afghanistan or terrorizing India.

Obviously, that’s not news to the Americans, it’s been true since the US started giving aid to Pakistan in the early years after the Cold War as a deterrent to the Soviets. But they are being more brazen about it, if these reports are to be believed, and also seem to be using it as a crutch at a time when the war-weary
Pakistani public seems ready to get rid of the militants.
Do they really need that many troops on the Indian border? Yes, it is convenient to have them there rather than fighting a difficult, dangerous fight against militants and terrorists in other parts of the country, but do they also genuinely believe that a troop reduction on the border will have India capitalising on a situation, when it’s to India’s benefit that they fight the terrorists? It’s hard to tell.
The real question is how the great aid-givers, will choose to react to this information out of the Pakistani government. The Obama administration has constantly stressed the Pakistan is the main front in the war (oh, sorry, Af-Pak), and there have been assurances in Congress that this time aid will be tied in to actual progress. It’s time to see how much of that is actually true.

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