The trust deficit

Confusing signals about the scenario that is likely to emerge in Afghanistan after foreign troops had left the country keep pouring in from Washington. At one moment, one US administration official speaks of the indispensability of Pakistans role not only in the post-withdrawal period if peace and stability is to be restored there, but also during the process of negotiations with the Taliban to effect an honourable exit for the US from the scene. Added to this at times is the pacifying assurance to Islamabad that New Delhis influence would be confined to the reconstruction of the badly destroyed Afghanistan, and it would be mainly for Pakistan, as a next door neighbour with a large component of co-ethnic population, to help maintain the political dispensation later. At another moment, another US official comes round and asserts that India, in fact, would have a vital part to play in Afghan security to ensure stability after the withdrawal of foreign troops; for Pakistan has been found wanting in the required attributes for such a task. The latest in the series are the remarks attributed to Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake, Jr, who alleges that Islamabad continues to remain engaged in fermenting trouble in Afghanistan. It provides help to armed groups there, which are getting organised and gaining strength. He goes on to accuse Lashkar-e-Taiba of being among those groups and repeats the common US and, of course, Indian mantra that Pakistan has been given a clear message that it must deal with the terrorists in its territory. Mr Blake laces his remark with the warning that the US would not leave Afghanistan until the security situation there improves. Mr Blakes criticism constitutes an unmistakable expression of trust deficit the Americans feel in their dealings with Pakistan. That is despite the fact that our leadership, both political and military, has repeatedly denied that Pakistan either helps or encourages militancy in Afghanistan. It is a purely indigenous resistance that gets sustenance from the traditional Afghan indomitable spirit of independence and keeps fighting the foreign occupying forces. Rather, it is Pakistan that holds the grouse that the powers that be in Afghanistan have given refuge to terrorists who are now causing instability along the western border. Even now, they are involved in attacking Pakistan from Afghan territory. This is not to deny that there is a clash of interests between Pakistan and the US. Pakistan is loath to start, what will be construed as a civil war, in the country against groups unproven to be involved in any cross border militant activity. If members of the same tribe inhabiting Afghanistan take up arms to oust the foreign troops, it is not Pakistans responsibility to bother about them. There is no logic in punishing their co-ethnics for no fault of theirs. The US demand for an armed action against them is not justified.

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