Editorial: America, India and Pakistan
From the editorials written by the newspapers on Thursday one comes to the conclusion that whereas the American nexus has become anathema, Pakistan’s good relations with India are a part of the new vision. Even as the American diplomats arrived in Islamabad to “interfere” with our sovereignty, the Indian prime minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, sent our prime minister a message hoping for the “best ever” relations with Pakistan. The reason for welcoming the Indian message is clear: the Pakistani mood towards India has been formed by eight years of President Musharraf’s “one-man normalisation” with New Delhi. Similarly, the reason for condemning the arrival of the American diplomats is obviously President Musharraf’s one-man handling of the Washington link for a similar number of years.
This is a strange attitude. Not many days ago the media were ablaze with angry comment on the way the caretaker government had kowtowed to India, releasing a convicted Indian spy from jail after decades of incarceration while scores of “disappeared” Pakistanis were rotting in jails without redress. Then the Indians did not make a kind gesture by sending the dead body of a Pakistani prisoner jailed in India after he had lost his passport during a visit to see a cricket test match. After that they had the cheek to demand, through their prime minister, that we should release another spy-terrorist on death row in Pakistan. Thus it seems the editorial mood welcoming Ms Singh’s hopes for good relations with Pakistan has changed too quickly and too radically.
Are we being rational in our foreign policy discussions, blowing hot and cold on issues that need to be tackled by the “strategic enclave” with care? The American diplomats Mr Negroponte and Mr Boucher were castigated for barging their way in and trying to influence the hardly formed new government before parliament could start its business of discussing foreign policy. It now develops that the Negroponte-Boucher visit was scheduled earlier and agreed to by the Foreign Office as per routine. This should embarrass a former foreign secretary who came on TV to denounce the visit as “crude diplomacy” when the media had its tail up on the issue and running away with the “honour-boosting” opportunity to castigate the superpower. Thankfully, though, the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, cared little for the media rage and ended up confirming that Pakistan was keen to persevere in its strategic relationship with the United States.
The media has a non-expert and amateur approach and we mean to point to it as a kind of self-criticism. One journalist was nearly abusive about the “submissiveness” of Pakistani politicians in front of the American “low-level” officers and wanted the two US diplomats thrown out of the country. Possibly, as a means of achieving this objective, this journalist wanted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to go the way of the ANP because of its acknowledged anti-US and pro-India credentials. Here again an unbalanced view of the world is in evidence: get rid of the US and embrace India. Of course, the correct position to take is that Pakistan should look closely at its special interests at the present moment and deal with all external parties within the ambit of its past intercourse and adopt a balanced approach.
Somehow, it is presumed that normalising with India will get rid of our problems at home. It is also assumed that getting rid of the American friendship and its implied “slavery” will benefit us on the basis of our earlier normalisation with India. But no one seems to be aware that such a result might take shape. Most of us have thought that in the past the Americans have always coerced us into being normal with India, which we didn’t do, and now that we have thought of it on our own, we don’t need the Americans. For any country with any kind of expertise in handling foreign affairs, the advice coming from the editorial writers is not only unsound but dangerous. Normalisation with India will not proceed safely after we have taken on the Americans by getting out of the “strategic relationship” with them.
All progress in international affairs is made on the basis of advantage accruing from a state’s entire network of relations. It is only by maintaining a working relationship with the US in Afghanistan that Pakistan can defuse the Indian leverage there and the danger it poses in Balochistan and other areas inside Pakistan. By becoming vulnerable in Afghanistan, normalisation with India will not yield significant results. And the party we want to negotiate with in South Waziristan can do nothing for us either with the US or India. We have to handle the developing situation in Afghanistan in tandem with our efforts at normalisation with India. But dumping the US for India will get us nowhere. *
Second Editorial:Power equations and ministries
The media has criticised the four-party coalition in the National Assembly for dragging its feet over cabinet-making and has lampooned the emergence of a prime minister sans his ministers even after taking his oath of office. Additionally, two parties in the coalition have revealed that they do not want the MQM in the federal cabinet. Both reactions are emotional rather than political. Letting the MQM join the cabinet in Sindh is deemed kosher on some unknown moral yardstick that applies in Islamabad but not in Karachi. If crime is a criterion then how does one interpret the electoral mandate?
There is also the haggling over portfolios. It is greatly off-putting to hear that no one is interested in taking the interior ministry because it is most vulnerable to Baitullah Mehsud’s suicide-bombers. Politicians were said to be lunging for the information ministry because that will enable them to publicise their party more than the others in the coalition. Surely, parties who want to ride the crest of public adulation for being brave vis-à-vis America should grab the interior ministry and refuse to do the US bidding. That would be the moral thing to do. *