The former presidential contender and current top Republication on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, has berated the Obama Administration for damaging relations with Pakistan by encouraging India to play a greater and more active role in Afghanistan after 2014 when the foreign troops had left the country. The Senator was speaking to PBS NewsHour programme. His reasoning that this was being done with an “in your face” attitude strikes a chord with the people of Pakistan. They feel that the harsh words of Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to rub the point in – ‘if you don’t go the whole hog with us in the war on terror, we would boost your enemy’s role in a country where you have vital stakes’ – could not, perhaps, be better described than by the expression Senator McCain has used. Another element further spoiling the Pak-US ties that, according to The Washington Post, were “closer than ever to a dead end”, and which the Senator did not mention, was the daily onslaught of drones on Pakistan’s tribal population. It is ironic that these attacks have become more frequent and more lethal during the presidency of Barack Obama who was being looked at for improving relations with the Islamic world. Not because of his personal story, but for the impassioned speech he delivered at Cairo that reflected a better understanding of the problems of the Islamic world. He failed to deliver on the speech and, sadly, lost both the opportunity and the singular honour of ensuring lasting peace and harmony in a region troubled by decades of bloodshed, enmity and hatred.
Nevertheless, one would like to hope that better sense prevails in the corridors of powers in the US and the words of Senator McCain are heeded. Good relations between the two countries are not just important for the pull out of troops from Afghanistan; it has strategic dimensions as well. It is noteworthy that as the bitterness persists without any hope of abating, the ranks of those who are hostile to the US are growing. The pressure on the government for not only sticking to the blockade of Nato supplies is becoming stronger, but also for dissociating from the war on terror in its entirety. It is time for wiser men both in the US and Pakistan to step in to turn the situation around.