h1

Pak-US Strategic Dialogue

October 20, 2010

Khalid Iqbal

The American media has a big role in shaping the perceptions about Pak-US relations. In fact, public opinion in Pakistan is significantly influenced by the US media. So, in anticipation of the third round of Pak-US strategic dialogue, spoilers are out on a Pakistan bashing spree.


All dead and buried issues aimed at projecting the negative image of Pakistan have been resurrected. Besides tarnishing the integrity of the civilian and military leadership, issues of non-proliferation, pending military action in North Waziristan, corruption and the like are being rehashed and put on exhibition. Nonetheless, there are a few saner voices as well.

Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s Wars, has already laid the framework by discrediting the Pakistani leadership, although he is equally or more harsh while describing the soap opera regarding the American leadership. The New York Times has floated a theory that Pakistan can divert the relief aid towards its nuclear programme. The Cutting Edge News reported a story titled Pakistan Goes Rogue and Worries Europe and America. This story is based on satellite images showing that the cooling towers at Pakistan’s Khushab-III reactor have been completed. Then the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has given out a recent estimate that Pakistan had assembled 70 to 90 nuclear warheads to India’s 60 to 80, and had produced enough fissile material to manufacture another 90. Ashley Tellis, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: ‘’Pakistan thinks it is going to be forced to cap its fissile material stocks and wants to make sure it has as much as it can get before then.’’

Therefore, no moral courage has been displayed by most of these nuclear experts by referring to the strategic fallout of Agreement 123, which has allowed India to liberate its eight fast breeder reactors that can churn out sufficient Plutonium to make around 280 nuclear warheads per year. India possesses more than 1,300 tons of ‘un-safeguarded’ reactor grade plutonium in the spent fuel, which its power reactors have generated over the years; and one of the Indian nuclear tests of 1998 was based on reactor grade plutonium.

While writing for Wall Street Journal, Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Pakistan, captions his column as ‘Pakistan Is Not America’s Enemy’. However, he is worried that the news from Pakistan is grim “as Obama administration’s recent report to Congress charges that the Pakistanis aren’t doing enough against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda…and press accounts quote unnamed officials asserting that elements in Pakistani intelligence are encouraging the Taliban to step up attacks on NATO forces.” He further opines: “One could easily conclude that we are describing an enemy, not an ally. Many in Pakistan feel the same way.” Crocker envisages robust and durable Pak-US relations and argues that there is no alternative to this option.

Apart from media facade, since the commencement of ‘strategic dialogue’ between the two countries, Pak-US relations have graduated to a higher level of maturity, while trust deficit has reduced quite a bit. Both sides have started to take care of each other’s sensitivities and the relationship has moved beyond day-to-day fire-fighting. The forum of strategic dialogue has a well structured sectoral approach towards 11 key areas. However, institutional and structural frameworks need to be strengthened to close the gaps.
In this context, the third round of dialogue offers an opportunity to rediscover the centre of gravity of the alliance, refine understanding of each other’s position on core issues, and sidestep the hubbub of distrust and blame game. Both sides need to take a fresh look at the overall cooperation between the two countries encompassing all issues and irritants.

The recent chopper attacks by NATO into the Pakistani territory, belittling Pakistan’s sovereignty and loss of the lives of its soldiers did trigger a spike of public anger. However, damage control actions by both sides were prompt, and prudence prevailed at the end. Frenzy dampened soon, and both the countries are back to business as usual. Pakistani side is planning concrete steps to improve the security of logistic containers by shifting the responsibility from private transporters to National Logistics Cell, which is a semi-government entity, with major stakes in transportation business.

There is a need to revisit NATO/ISAF’s operational vision for Afghanistan and make the necessary adjustments to cater for Pakistan’s sensitivities. Trigger-happy incursions into Pakistan at the tactical level are not likely to bring any worthwhile gains; it could cause a major rupture in Pak-US relations.

To improve the working level in military relations, NATO Secretary General’s proposal for deeper ties between NATO and Pakistan needs to be evaluated in the backdrop of the recently floated idea of giving Pakistan a full member status.

Time has come for the US to abandon its dual policy of talking to the Taliban alongside a military campaign to decimate them. Most glaring loss due to this policy has been the lack of strategic space for the willing segments of the Taliban to dissociate from Al-Qaeda. Indeed, any meaningful reconciliation should begin from the Haqqani network. The two-track policy of weakening the Taliban and also putting up a façade of dialogue is leading towards mistrust between the well meaning Taliban elements and the US. To be meaningful, these negotiations should be based on a bold agenda.

Optimism about the Afghan security forces capability to take over the responsibility of their national security needs a realistic review; strategies cannot be based on wishful thinking. Structural weaknesses and capacity inadequacies coupled with demographic distortions hint that these forces could very well be a vehicle for protracted instability. There is a need to work out additional umbrella security structures to underwrite stability in Afghanistan.

The US needs to come clean on the suggestion of the division of Afghanistan, as Pakistan does not support this idea thrown in by David Blackwell. Any such effort is envisaged to be resisted by all Afghans, irrespective of their ethnicity. The US should distance itself from this disastrous concept.

In addition, it needs to follow a viable approach towards Pakistan’s critical shortages in power generation sector. Availability of electricity at affordable cost necessitates that a bulk of power be generated through nuclear facilities. It is time to put the Dr A.Q. Khan episode behind, and the US should move ahead to support Pakistan to set up mega power projects under IAEA safeguards.

Since devastating floods have caused destruction and degradation of infrastructure, there is a need to go beyond the Kerry-Lugar allocations to take care of post-floods revival. Facilitation of soft loans by the World Bank and other international financial institutions would provide an essential breather to Pakistan’s economy. Also, the legislative process about market access to Pakistani textiles and setting up of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones needs to be expedited.

Thus, the forthcoming round of talks provides a venue to break out from the inertia of mundane levels of activity and enter the real strategic orbit. Notwithstanding the American interpretation of the word ‘strategic’, Pakistanis always equate it with something big.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. The History of the USA has a predominate course of action that the Government has taken in any matter
    that it considers a threat, no matter how large or small. And, that is to eliminate the threat completely and is does not stop until it is eliminated. In so far as the threat of India’s Nuclear Stockpiles, I would think that, knowing the USA’s consideration of Alien Nations, all the USA is considering is the potential of its own fuel and warhead supplies. Considering that the stability of the elements used in the formula of a Nuclear Warhead are subject to a short, 20 to 30 year, lifespan. The more available the more fear you can evoke upon others. To evoke fear is the only reason any State maintains a supply of Warheads.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: