Trust deficit

IT was necessary to remind the visiting American team comprising Admiral Mullen and Mr Holbrooke that Pakistan being a sovereign country, there was no way it could allow US drones to continue to target its population. Used as the Americans are to deal with docile military governments not responsible to anyone, they had to be told in no uncertain terms that an elected government could not simply oblige when national sovereignty was at stake. That there is a lack of trust between the US and Pakistan became amply evident when the US officials publicly accused the Army and the ISI of not fully cooperating in the War on Terror. They had done this despite the fact that Pakistan had stationed troops along the Pak-Afghan border, at one time nearing 90,000, to stop cross-border movement. Pakistan's security forces have mounted numerous operations in the tribal areas, leading to the killing of over 1500 personnel and several thousand civilians. In its campaign against the terrorists, the authorities arrested and handed over to the US scores of militants, including numerous leading figures of Al-Qaeda, thus inviting the ire of the terrorists who then started targeting population centres in Pakistan. The price Pakistan has had to pay during its partnership with the US has been enormous. Many had hoped that as a result of the policy review, the Obama Administration would change the Bush-era shock and awe strategy. What one finds is that the new Administration is determined to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, landing itself in a cul de sac as before. The recourse to the familiar carrot and stick policy won't help. No government that compromises on national sovereignty for the lure of enhanced American aid can survive long. There is a widespread opposition in the country to American military intervention in Pakistan's tribal areas. The mood is reflected in Parliament also. A parliamentary committee on national security has condemned the drone attacks in the strongest possible terms, demanding an immediate halt to them. The committee has finalized its recommendations, which are to be presented before the National Assembly and Senate within the next few days. Pakistan having a bitter experience of American disengagement from the region in the wake of the Soviet defeat that left neighbouring Afghanistan at the mercy of armed bands and instability, it is rightly worried that the power vacuum thus created could be filled by unfriendly India. With Mr Holbrooke maintaining that the US cannot mediate between India and Pakistan, hopes that Washington would play a role in the resolution of disputes with India, Kashmir being the key issue, have faded. Unless Washington takes Pakistan's reservations into consideration, there is little hope of trust between the two countries which is indispensable to win the war on terror.

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