Last week, there was this delightful picture of two teams of negotiators which appeared on the front page of one of the local newspapers. On one side of the conference table the Islamic Republic was represented by a clutch of men in their Sunday best and, wait for it … two ladies … one of whom is certainly the most intelligent in the PPP ranch, and the other is arguably the world’s most attractive foreign minister and this would include the banana republics. Now in case anybody is sniggering over his buttered toast while reading this article, and believes that Hina Rabbani Khar was selected only for her looks and taste in haute couture — let me inform him that she has a pretty sharp mind and is no pushover. She has already assured India’s minister for external affairs that the mindset in Pakistan towards her eastern neighbour has undergone a transformation, and that while Pakistan wants to be friends with all nations, her sovereignty must be respected.
On the other side of the communal trough, one of the world’s two superpowers was represented by a platoon of men in business suits led by a senior US diplomat. The Americans pointed out that Pakistan should be mindful of US security interests. President Asif Ali Zardari was then quoted as saying that a decision would soon be taken on reopening the Nato supply routes ‘in the national interest’, whatever that is supposed to mean. This was followed by this cornball cliché from the US deputy secretary of state. “We have different perspectives … and we will find solutions that will respect each other’s interests … I believe we will come out of this with a relationship which benefits both our nations.” He was echoing President Barack Obama’s earlier call for a balanced approach that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty and interests and also caters to US national security. It is not very clear how the US is going to achieve this, for it is rather like heaving a grand piano up a spiral staircase
In plain, simple English, the deal that was struck during the stewardship of General Pervez Musharraf, which was inherited by President Zardari, was that the army would look the other way while the Americans bombed the hell out of North Waziristan. It was only when the United Nations’ troops picked off 26 Pakistani soldiers that all hell broke loose. In one fell swoop all those cherished memories of the past, of Dwight Eisenhower and Jackie Kennedy driving through the streets of Lahore with the Nawab of Kalabagh, of Lyndon Johnson and Bashir the camel driver, of Richard Nixon, of the Peace Corps, and the Hubert Humphrey and East-West scholarships vanished into the ether.
Sure I do not see any advantage whatsoever in cutting off links with the United States. We have considerably more to lose than to gain, not just in financial terms, but also in the field of education. Pakistanis are not like the Vietnamese, Cambodians or Bangladeshis, where tightening belts has never been a problem, and where the women don’t treat shopping like a martial art. Because of perceived connections of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies with terrorist organisations, the country doesn’t have any well-wishers with the exception of Turkey and the all-weather friend China, so long as the religious right doesn’t send any more Muslim priests to Sinkiang to convert the heathen. If the Americans want to stay our friends we should welcome the gesture, but on our terms, if for no other reason than if it hadn’t been for Richard Nixon and the sixth fleet in 1971, we might have ended up as a true vassal of India.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.
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