US Ambassador Cameron Munter has justified American operations on Pakistan’s soil saying that the drone attacks were a “collective responsibility”. Islamabad says that the missile attacks by US pilot-less aircraft in the tribal regions are counter-productive and stoke anti-Americanism in the region.
“We are fighting your enemies. Terrorism is the main issue confronting your country and your government agrees with us,” sources quoted Ambassador Munter as saying during a visit to the University of Sindh in Jamshoro.
Pakistan-US relations have strained since the May 2 US special forces’ operation in Abbottabad that had killed Osama bin Laden.
The al Qaeda kingpin’s discovery in Abbottabad has deepened US suspicion that Pakistan’s top spy agency may have had ties with him, or that some of its agents did. And on Tuesday Ambassador Munter sought an explanation for Bin Laden’s presence on Pakistan’s soil.
However, he was optimistic that the ongoing strains would not affect the overall diplomatic relations between the two countries. “Despite the difficulties we have had in recent days, we are going to make it because we believe that there are a lot of things in common,” he said.
Pakistan had fought the US proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s against the Soviet forces. And after the defeat of the Soviet forces, Washington walked away from the region, leaving Pakistan alone to deal with the aftermath.
Ambassador Munter acknowledged that a break in US-Pakistan relations after the end of Cold War was a blunder. “The same mistake ‘shall’ not be repeated again,” he added.
Earlier at an interactive session on ‘Higher Education: US Aid to Pakistan’, the ambassador said that the future of US-Pakistan relations should be guided by “reaching out” to people who cooperate. Faculty and students shared their views with the US envoy.
“Instead of offering scholarships to a select group of students, campuses and visiting faculty can provide higher education opportunities to a vast number of students in Pakistan,” one teacher suggested. It makes more sense to open campuses for US universities and encourage lecture visits by American faculty.
Indeed, SU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Nazir Mughal expressed his unhappiness with the travel warnings for Pakistan issued by the State Department. “We have signed MoUs with many US universities but the expected exchange of faculty and students is not happening,” he said, requesting the ambassador to do away with such warnings in the interest of education.
When a student complained of complications when it came to “religious names” when visas were processed, Munter cited security concerns saying, “The US State Department’s computer programme is tough on certain things, therefore, proper vetting of applicants is necessary”.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2011.