Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pakistan & US : So what’s new?

Notwithstanding Islamabad’s only-to-be-expected denials, the United States government under President Barack Obama is now complaining that the anti-ship Harpoon missiles supplied to Pakistan as military assistance in the late 1980s have been illegally converted into land-based strike systems whose target can be India. Similar is the story with the P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft which can now be mobilised from the sea by the Pakistan Navy for on-land missile targeting of India. Washington has earlier acknowledged that military hardware support given to Islamabad to fight the Al Qaeda and Taliban more recently have also been seized upon to be used against India. There is little that is new about such complaints, however. Also, such grousing has never come in the way of the abiding US-Pakistan relationship, which has at no time been placed under such scrutiny by Washington as to amount to a change in dynamics in bilateral ties of the two countries — one a leading democracy, the other, ironically, a leading military dictatorship for the most part, which has become a problem for the world in more ways than one. From the time that Pakistan came into being, its rulers have assiduously wooed the United States for military assistance and financial aid. Washington responded richly as Karachi, the then Pakistani capital, showed an eager willingness to be a part of the US-led ideological and military alliance against the erstwhile Soviet Union. The weapons received under that anti-Communist scheme were unfailingly turned against India. Indeed, Pakistan’s basic reason to be part of the American-led Central Treaty Organisation (Cento) was to acquire weapons for use against India in the guise of holding a flank against global Communism. In their day the Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indira Gandhi governments in this country made it a point to bring to Washington’s notice the games its protégé was playing. But these were invariably overlooked because India was a leader of the nonaligned bloc that gave Washington no political comfort. That was then. But the basic storyline appears to have changed little, although India and America now seek a long-term bilateral relationship with one another that can be a force for good in the world. A month ago, reacting to the Obama administration’s plan of infusing massive military aid into Pakistan, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna had cautioned Washington that this would be cleverly sought to be used against India. There are no signs that Washington heard. What the US has to keep in mind, however, is that its so-called AfPak strategy is likely to appear thinner than it is already if weapons received by Pakistan to clear the tribal areas of international and local terrorist elements nurtured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence are diverted to other uses. Further, the AfPak strategy, which has several layers, can hardly be seen as a coherent whole if any anxieties are caused to India on account of prejudicial Pakistani actions. The Obama administration has asked Congress to approve a $7.5-billion aid package for Pakistan to be disbursed over the next five years. Some of this is meant to assuage hostile feelings among the people of Pakistan on account of American drones targeting terrorist leaders inside Pakistani territory, an act that detracts from Pakistani sovereignty. The US Congress, however, cannot but be concerned about the uses to which American aid is put by Pakistan. To what extent would US legislators like to test the new impetus in US-India relations is also a question to be kept in view. Source : The Asian Age

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