At a time when the US is pursuing negotiations with the Taliban, the drone strike in an area close to Miramshah on Saturday – second one in a week -- that left 10 suspected militants dead, bears testimony to the US intention of keeping the cauldron boiling for its front line ally Pakistan. This has happened even though a senior official of the American embassy was summoned to the Foreign Office seemingly for a dressing down. It is high time the uselessness of such token protests dawned on the leadership.
It is a crying shame that in the wake of Saturday’s attack, the Foreign Office protested in its typical manner that the drone strikes are unacceptable and that they violate our territorial integrity. That such whimpers mean nothing in the eyes of the US was made clear from Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s statement the other day that the strikes will continue regardless of Islamabad’s anger. In fact we also are well aware of this fact because a week ago Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar confessed that while the government was asking for cessation of the warfare the US was not listening. It is obvious that a different strategy as urged by Parliament’s recommendation is now needed. It is obvious why Pakistan is still being targeted when the US is in the process of winding up the war in Afghanistan. The aim is to make us a scapegoat for its own failures. Having created a campaign badmouthing Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism, US officials are beginning to think they have the justification for carrying out the drone warfare despite protests by the government. If it cannot break away from this alliance altogether, the government at least needs to respond to the American aggression firmly. We must admit that relations are at their lowest ebb mainly because of our subservience and conceding more ground at the drop of a hat. Apart from certain sanctions and cessation of aid, the US did not even tender an apology for the Salalah attack. Also in another measure that speaks volumes about its hostility, President Obama has given permission to US forces to respond to military adventurism by Pakistani forces. This is just as though the Taliban or the Al-Qaeda the Pakistani army is a sworn enemy of the US forces.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s statement should set alarm bells ringing within the concerned government quarters. Clearly tough action is required to make the US understand that we can extend cooperation but that we also know how to protect our sovereignty. Obama administration must also not forget that for so long as the strikes will continue, there can be no improvement in bilateral ties.