US-Pakistan tensions rising: NPR
* Analysts point out bill tabled in House of Representatives almost precludes discussion
* Holbrooke’s potential adviser says Pakistan needs to be held accountable
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: While, publicly, the US and Pakistan are allies with a parallel interest in eradicating extremism – behind the scenes, it is a complicated relationship, increasingly fraught with resentment, miscommunication and mistrust.
America’s National Public Radio (NPR) claims that a series of recent incidents and issues have contributed to the friction. These include a bill introduced by Howard Berman – chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee – that calls for US military aid and development assistance to Pakistan to be made conditional to presidential certification of progress in counter-terrorism operations and cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation.
Shuja Nawaz – a fellow with the Atlantic Council – says the bill is loaded with conditions that even the most stable government would find difficult to fulfil. “It’s created a very powerful backlash in Pakistan – among the public for one, who think the US is dictating, and in the government.”
Nawaz points out that conditions in the bill are so specific that they almost preclude discussion. “Pakistan has to certify that there is no activity against India.” Even if Pakistan were to certify that, he asks, “does it actually have enough control to prevent another Mumbai type of attacks?”
Vali Nasr of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of International Affairs – who has been tipped to be a senior adviser to US special envoy Richard Holbrooke – says that under the Obama administration, Pakistan would need to be held accountable for the US aid it receives.
“For those in Pakistan who are used to receiving money with no questions asked... this is obviously a glass half-full compared to what they had,” says Nasr.
Another issue is the question of drones the United States has been using to attack suspected terrorists in the Tribal Areas.
Analysts say relations between the two sides soured after Mullen, Holbrooke and other senior US officials publicly suggested that some elements in the ISI retain close links with the Taliban.
“That has become a very sensitive issue,” said Shahid Javed Burki, a former caretaker finance minister in Pakistan.
ISI head Ahmed Shuja Pasha refused to hold separate meetings with Mullen and Holbrooke during the US team’s visit to Islamabad, and the tension between the officials was almost palpable during a joint press conference at the end of the visit.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the bottom line was a question of trust. “We are partners, and we want to be partners,” he said. He said the US and Pakistan could only work together “if we respect each other and trust each other... there is no other way, nothing else will work”.
“This is probably the worst-ever visit by an American team to South Asia in history ... it was a complete disaster,” Shuja Nazwaz says. “If this is how you want to win friends, I just wonder how you want to create enemies.”
Nasr, on the other hand said, “You’re trying to recalibrate a decades-old relationship in the middle of a war and in a new direction, and there’s going to be hiccups, there’s going to be resistance, there’s going to be pushback, there’s going to be disappointment.”
Nasr also said he thought the Obama administration was doing the right thing.