Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Overview of U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue

March 31, 2010

An Overview of U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue

By Saeed Qureshi

Reading through the Joint Statement issued by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, D. C. on the deliberations of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue conducted at the Ministerial Level on 24 - 25 March 2010, one gets a fuzzy impression and unclear perception as to the concrete outcome of this important round of parleys. The mention of the chief of Pakistan army general Pervez Ashfaq Kayani has been made in passing, although he outshined others.
The entire show in Washington has been attributed to the foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. His role has been glorified for ostensible reasons because the foreign missions are run by the foreign office, though economic, military and consular wings in the embassy too operate and their personnel are drawn from their respective ministries or institutions. Visibly, the chief of staff has been given scant coverage and rather his dominating role and conspicuous presence in the American capital was underplayed in the embassy’s handout.
From a close scrutiny of the communiqué, I have not been able to convince myself that the United States has gone out of the way to bestow some very special and unique favors on Pakistan through this dialogue which was more of a necessity for America than that of Pakistan. It is primarily America that is fighting a costly war against her enemies and Pakistan is being involved and used as a supplementary fighting force in that war. Diplomatic jargon couched in nice nuances apart, the claims of Pakistan Foreign Office and those of Pakistan embassy about an historic breakthrough are merely an attempt to magnify this dialogue for the domestic gallery and to bolster the incumbent dispensation in Pakistan.
Suppose, America has agreed to give Predator Drone technology or aircrafts to Pakistan, then it would be doing so because now Pakistan would take over the gory task of target killing of the suspected terrorists from America herself, saving America from international strictures. This onerous and rather irksome role would be assigned to Pakistan thus relieving America of the burden of a diatribe it was getting for also killing civilians. This privilege if it can be so described is hard to be boasted and claimed as a big concession from America. But mark! .Such a claim is a mere hearsay and there is no definitive decision taken on that subject.
Now the commitment that American will allow Pakistani products to be sold in the American market is conditioned with those products that would be produced in the so called “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones”. A rigorous and prolonged legislation would be needed in America to materialize this proposal. According to this stipulation, the products from the industries to be produced in the war ravaged designated parts of the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan would be given duty-free access to American markets.
Those areas would be established on both sides of the Durand Line, following a complete victory over the anti American elements including Taliban and Al-Qaida. No one can predict with absolute certainty as to how long will it take for that projected victory to take place. The anonymous officials, however, have cautioned that, “It was not be realistic for Pakistan to expect a full-fledged free-trade agreement, which would require a long political process.”
As far addressing Pakistan’s ticklish issues of electricity and water, by an offer to refurbish three thermal plants does not seem to be a mega super offer. Pakistan has plenty of coal deposits and given the will to set up coal powered power plants, Pakistan does not need such assistance which is yet to come and which would further bind it to the indebtedness of United States for “doing more and more.” That would push it towards fulfilling further chores and odd services. The United States has been non-committal on “Pakistan's ambitions for an agreement on civilian nuclear energy akin to a landmark deal which the United States sealed in 2008 with its rival.” America is far from giving any commitment or even throwing a hint on that kind of substantional cooperation.
The bare fact is that India has been granted access to American civil nuclear energy technology without the kind of crucial role Pakistan is playing and which is the elimination of the American enemies. Honestly, it should have been Pakistan to be bestowed with this extraordinary assistance. The reality is that America doesn’t treat India and Pakistan at par or on an equal footing. In comparison to India, despite its sterling accomplishments against the anti-American terrorist groups and militants Pakistan is being treated as a lesser ally.
The cooperation with India is on a long term basis while with Pakistan it is subject to the needs and demands of America which can be terminated once the assigned jobs are accomplished by Pakistan. One has to only look at the way America left both Pakistan and Afghanistan once Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan. The history may repeat itself once again, when the embattled areas would be cleared of the insurgents and the Islamic radical militants.
The communiqué states that, “A Policy Steering Group was established to intensify and expand the sectoral dialogue process in the fields of: economy and trade; energy; defense; security, strategic stability and non-proliferation; law enforcement and counter-terrorism; science and technology; education; agriculture; water; health; and communications and public diplomacy. Sectoral meetings will be held in Islamabad soon.”
Regrettably, it is like asking United States to run Pakistan by handing over the entire government machinery to that super power and to take over Pakistan because the implied message seems to be like this that “we Pakistanis are incapable of establishing a system of good, efficient and clean governance.” This carte blanches, unfortunately, speaks for the incompetence and a loathsome propensity to sell out the entire spectrum of governance and government from top to bottom to America. Is Pakistan going to be an overseas extension of the American territory? Does Pakistan have no talent, no professionals, nor experts, good administrators and honest leaders who can overcome the deformities that have seized Pakistan?
The present rulers are made of wax. They are morally, intellectually and administratively bankrupt as to deem themselves unfit to serve Pakistan in a befitting manner. Otherwise, how could they think of handing over Pakistan lock, stock and barrel to another country for improvement of Pakistan’s governance and government and for making the institutions workable and efficient? It is another matter that United States herself is a great country and indeed a friend of Pakistan even for her own reasons.
Finally if America is earnest in putting Pakistan on the road to progress and prosperity, good governance and economic stability then it should write off Pakistan’s huge loans and relieve it of its mammoth debt burden that is the real cause of Pakistan’s poor economy and grinding poverty. It should help Pakistan overcome its power crisis by giving it nuclear power plants that she can jointly operate with Pakistan.
America is in the most strident position to get the festering Kashmir issue resolved. It is a dispute between India and Pakistan that has wasted away both countries’ precious six decades in mutual fighting and bickering, on building weapons arsenals and remaining is a state of perpetual tension and belligerency. Once this issue is resolved via the mediation of America and the rest of world, an era of peace and stability would prevail in the sub content which would contribute towards world peace and elimination of hot spots.
The creation of the so called “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” is not going to fructify unless the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan is settled by creating permanent borders. With these developments the regions from central Asia to Indian Ocean would turn into an abode of lasting peace and galloping prosperity.

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