The list of aid projects announced for Pakistan by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her brief visit to Islamabad are intended to serve a purpose. As Ms Clinton has said before, the Obama administration believes it is vital the image of the US in Pakistan be changed if the partnership between the two nations is to move towards a productive goal. As we all know, for now the US continues to be seen with mistrust by most in Pakistan.
The two dams, water provision schemes, health centres and other projects which form a part of the new package mark a step forward in relations. As a country desperately starved of energy and development they will also serve a distinct purpose for Pakistan. But while the sole focus on security issues that marked US strategy through the Bush years served little purpose, Washington must realise the task of changing perceptions will not be an easy one. Patience, along with projects, will be required. The purpose must be to uplift people and raise them above the pit of misery that has played an immense role in driving people towards militancy. The evidence that there is an awareness of the link between the betterment of people and an end to terrorism within the US administration is welcome.
Washington has clearly opted for a carrot and stick policy. Pakistan’s leaders will be pleased the carrots are being handed out. But they must also be aware that to keep them coming in, the effort to defeat militants must continue consistently. Any sign of hesitation on this front could bring down the stick. This was indeed made clear by Ms Clinton who also spoke of the need for Pakistan to take ‘additional steps’ against terrorism. The nature of these must have been clarified during her meetings with the foreign minister, the prime minister and the president, who will no doubt be pleased over the US aid package and the ray of hope it offers Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2010.
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