Thus far, the US, a few unguarded moments of intemperance aside, has kept private its growing anger and disappointment at the unravelling relations with Pakistan, preferring instead to go the indirect route to make plain its position. All that might be about to change. At a press conference in Washington DC, the US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, made plain his, and by extension his government’s, anger at Pakistan in the wake of the Nato attack that killed 26 Pakistani soldiers. Leaving aside the chutzpah of Dempsey for using an incident where the US attacked Pakistani soldiers to launch verbal volleys in our direction, we have to pay close attention to his words and try to stem the growing anger on both sides. One of the first things both countries can do is keep plain-speaking military men far away from microphones. Dempsey’s angry and defensive press conference, where he asserted that the US did not need Pakistan as a route for Nato supplies and that they didn’t care about burned Nato trucks since they didn’t pay for the fuel until it reached them, has only matched in tone and rhetoric what Major-General Ishfaq Nadeem, the director general of military operations, told journalists in a briefing soon after the Nato attack. Nadeem’s insistence that the attack was a deliberate one, before an investigation into the incident even had time to start, publicly provoked the US at a time when quiet diplomacy was needed.
As the junior partner in this alliance, it is unfortunately incumbent on Pakistan to take most of the steps required to bring things back on track. It should start by agreeing to be a part of the joint investigation into the Nato attack. If the findings of that investigation show, as the US claims, that the attack was accidental, it will then be time to reopen supply routes for Nato trucks. The only other alternative is to go it alone. That wouldn’t mean an end to US military incursions in our territory and drone attacks on suspected militants based in the tribal areas since the US has never needed anyone’s acquiescence to guard its interests. It would simply mean that we wouldn’t be given the aid that keeps our treasury afloat. Once we are ready to do that, we can feel free to engage in an escalating war of words with the Americans.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2011.
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