Going to Chicago

Published: May 17, 2012
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Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (L) chairing the defence committee meeting with senior cabinet ministers and military chiefs in Islamabad. PHOTO: PID

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (L) chairing the defence committee meeting with senior cabinet ministers and military chiefs in Islamabad. PHOTO: PID

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has invited President Asif Ali Zardari to the historic gathering of over 60 world leaders in Chicago on May 20 and 21 to resolve the Afghan issue before the Nato forces start leaving Afghanistan. President Zardari is said to have accepted the invitation as per earlier negotiations to finally resolve the deadlock which developed at the end of 2011 between the US and Pakistan and which had led to Pakistan boycotting the 2011 Bonn Summit.

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet has given the go ahead to lift the almost six-month-long blockade on Nato supplies passing through the country, an issue that had brought US-Nato relations with Pakistan to their lowest. A consensual but abnormally slow-grinding process, producing a set of recommendations took the country’s foreign policy out of the ambit of normal diplomacy. After realising — despite a lot of  ‘patriotic’ commentary by angry analysts — that letting parliament in on foreign policy was an excessive step, the establishment finally decided to go back to tried-and-tested diplomacy.

Parliament had front-loaded two issues that were pre-eminently suited for diplomatic negotiation and likely to give Pakistan an upper hand, had diplomacy not been undercut by emotional representatives of the people equally driven by an emotional establishment: drone attacks and an apology by the US on the Salala incident. Thus, Pakistan needlessly tested the limits of its power and influence as a frontline state only to find that relying on emotion and notions of honour, instead of reason and logic, to determine such an important policy matter was a route that it should never have adopted.

The Bonn conference on Afghanistan in December last year bore no significant results, which was no surprise. Pakistan had stayed away, the Iranians attended but were rather tentative in their commitment, aid donors had held back to see what other aid donors would do, and Afghan president Hamid Karzai had painted a discouraging picture of what looked like indefinite dependence of his country on international largesse. The timing of the Bonn summit was bad. Pakistan-US relations had hit rock bottom, though everybody still recognised that Pakistan remained the most important of the regional players. America’s relations with Iran were bad then and remain bad this time too, unless Teheran reformulates its stance. Is there a window of opportunity for Pakistan to do some give-and-take on Afghanistan to get the US-Nato approval on the Iranian gas pipeline? Another topic on which the popular feeling in Pakistan is quite intense. First China and then Russia — both sanctions-busters vis-à-vis Iran — have backed out of constructing the pipeline on the Pakistani side.

It is time we became realistic about the conduct of Pakistan’s foreign policy and realised that Afghanistan is a nettlesome issue on which we don’t have a coherent policy except for that embarrassing and only half-heartedly claimed doctrine of  “strategic depth”. High-ranking officers of the army serving in the field against Taliban terrorists have said that Pakistan would be in trouble if the Taliban took over again in Kabul. Equally, past decisions have put Pakistan at cross-purposes with the anti-Taliban elements in Afghanistan called the Northern Alliance.

Both the drone and “apology” issues have to be recalibrated away from the high passion of the various state and non-state actors in Pakistan. Regaining mutual confidence — which should be properly anointed by suitable assistance to Pakistan to save its economy from going belly-up — is the goal in the achievement of which the Bonn summit should have been a useful locus for Pakistan. Pakistan has broken out of suicidal isolation by a last-minute bout of sanity. Both parliament and the military should step back and see what they did and how they could have done things differently, especially given that in the end Pakistan got neither an apology from the Americans, nor a halt to the drone attacks.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • khalid
    May 17, 2012 - 1:20AM

    Without Americans apology on the killing of Pakistani soldiers, opening of routes is against the ethics. Americans cannot afford to open another front with Pakistan. They stopped aids, financial assistance etc, which otherwise didn’t reach the people, since the time this swindlers party is in the government. Even if the routes are opened and these finances like million dollars a day are received, these wouldn’t reach the people or utilized properly. How can it be ensured that this money is not swindled or used for purchasing ephedrine, instead utilized for the country and the people as done during Musharraf’s period.
    One thing good that the Indian Hindus have been kept out of it, that is why some conclusions have been reached. They have just come up with new set of propaganda.
    We pray that Supreme Court along with Gen Kayani take the charge of these finances.

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  • Fatah
    May 17, 2012 - 1:56AM

    Boycott Chicago.

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    May 17, 2012 - 7:15AM

    Greek lore of Helen’s beauty and her abduction by Paris set Agamemnon to launch a 1000 ships for Helen’s recovery from Troy. Look at the faces of our Defiant Ones sitting beside the table!!! Our lot can’t launch 10 rowboats. If only they paid their electric bills will be enough.

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  • Mirza
    May 17, 2012 - 7:23AM

    If we continue to practice duplicity and two faced policies of the past we would be branded a terrorist nation for sure. We have seen what happens when we try to overplay our hand. The UN, NATO and the US called our bluff. Here is an example how the rightwing Nawaz Sharif saved his skin at Kargil. He went straight to the US on their independence day and showed remorse and took President Clinton into confidence. What is wrong in taking Obama in confidence and a heart to heart talk? War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.

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  • May 17, 2012 - 7:27AM

    “Without Americans apology on the killing of Pakistani soldiers, opening of routes is against the ethics.”

    Ethics are a set of shared values. Are these Pakistani ethics or American ones that you treasure? Both? Or is this part of the cultural battle raging in Pakistan today?

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  • Shahid Ali
    May 17, 2012 - 7:52AM

    Btw why not our Chief Executive but head of state is going to attend summit. Did our foreign office advise summit managers to invite HOS or they themselves preferred President Zardari???

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  • Feroz
    May 17, 2012 - 9:46AM

    This back tracking and humiliation the country could have done without. The ace played by the Establishment turned out to be a dummy. Once the US/ NATO combine correctly called the bluff everything went out of the window. I hope the era of duplicity and lies are behind us and a bright new chapter unfolds.

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  • Ignorant
    May 17, 2012 - 12:37PM

    Secretary Defence should have been given seat before the first uniformed attendant sitting on the left. Honor reigns supreme at every stage except when we are faced with the limitations of our honor.

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  • May 17, 2012 - 6:18PM

    With all sincerity I appreciate the Editorial Group of Express Tribune for all-ways keeping their head above the waves of emotions and blind rhetoric that are threatning to sink the country. I feel that you, your board are relentlessly working to bring good balanced view to the readers in true interest of Pakistan.

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