The Americans cannot understand mainstream Pakistan because they never get beyond the selected few amongst even the elite, the rulers and the civil and military bureaucracies. Ms Clinton never got the real picture on her earlier visit and surely she will not understand the depth of the anti-American sentiment that prevails in Pakistan today, despite (or perhaps because of) the massive inflows of intrusive aid into this country.
We are told she has come with a $500 million aid package and apparently the aid will go into power, agriculture, health and dams also – but as we all know for the Americans there is no such thing as a “free lunch” – and already our country is bleeding because of the alliance with the US so we are going to be bled some more with this aid package which is believed to be part of the old $ 7.5 billion Congressional aid package.
So why is one seeing this as a “bribe”? Simply because it is intended to soften the blow that the US is trying to deal Pakistan in terms of altering what remains of our indigenous foreign policy. So much has also been admitted by the self-styled expert on Pakistan, like many others on Holbrooke’s team, Vali Nasr. In a talk with CNN while he admitted that there was a wide trust gap between Pakistan and the US, besides stating that changing the relationship would take time. But his assessment was that “We are not going to be able to change their foreign policy on a dime.” If he had been a proper expert on Pakistan and actually knew the country well, he would have realised that it is not money that will alter Pakistan’s thinking (leaving aside the fifth columnists) on the US, but actually policy changes in US strategic policy especially in this region.
What are the primary changes the US will need to make to allow Pakistanis to rethink their perceptions of the US?
One, a stop in drone attacks, which can in definitional terms be regarded as state terrorism against the Pakistani people. Let Pakistan talk to its militants – many of whom are Pakistani citizens – rather than demanding our military simply kill the people of FATA indiscriminately.
Two, a new approach to the Pakistan-India relationship and a more even-handed policy towards both states. As long as the Indo-US nuclear agreement remains and the US pressurises Pakistan on its civil nuclear agreements with China, the US will be suspect. Also, the supply of state-of-the-art conventional weapon systems to India with no restrictions on their use, and the highly conditional sale of F-16s to Pakistan also add to the suspicions about the US agenda for Pakistan. And let us not forget the missile defence system for India, which will compel Pakistan to increase the number of its warheads and missiles. On Kashmir also, the recent statement by the US State Department, echoing the Indian position and ignoring the disputed status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir within the UNSC, hardly creates confidence in Pakistan. Many are asking why this is so and what the secret clauses are to this Agreement since the US is desperately seeking access for India through the land route across Pakistan into Afghanistan?
Three, the US has to rid itself of its approach to the Muslim World, especially towards Muslim states that refuse to toe the US line. Its killings of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan; its harassment of Muslims in the US itself all add to the anti-US sentiment. The US analysts are ignorant about the fact that Pakistan has since 1947 been in the frontline of assisting Muslim causes – be it our pilots flying Syrian planes against Israel or the Tunisian and Algerian leadership using Pakistani passports and our embassy in Paris as they struggled for independence from France – to cite a few examples only.
Four, the Guantanamo Bay and Dr Aafia cases are reflections of persecuting Muslims outside the pale of international law.
Five, the media campaigns – that is how they are perceived here – against Pakistan on many fronts do nothing for US interests in this country.
Six, the manner in which US diplomats, covert operatives and private contractors strut about their business in Pakistan, revealing US neoimperialist arrogance, also does not help the US cause.
These changes can bring the US more in line with Pakistan’s foreign policy interests in the region which include sustaining a credible nuclear deterrence, relying more on nuclear energy for our energy shortfalls in the long run, building upon our strategic partnership with China, improving relations with Iran – a neighbour with whom we have historic and cultural linkages and no dispute – and furthering our Muslim identity through strengthening the Ummah, and most critically moving India into conflict resolution of the core issue of Kashmir in accordance with UNSC resolutions. Can the US deliver on any of these goals? So far the answer remains in the negative.