Editorial : Grossman visit - Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/08/grossman-visit.html

US SPECIAL Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman’s first visit to Pakistan has come at a difficult time, to put it mildly. The Raymond Davis affair led to a public war of words between the CIA and the ISI; the situation in Afghanistan remains somewhere between fragile and unsalvageable; Pakistan’s economy is lurching towards the edge of the precipice due to internal mismanagement compounded by an external reluctance to bail out the country; Fata remains a mess and militants continue to stalk Pakistan proper — the list goes on. Mr Grossman’s most immediate job will be to try and recover the dangerously strained Pakistan-US ties. Mistrust and suspicion between the two sides had been growing even before three people were killed on the streets of Lahore by Americans. It’s no secret that the US strategy in Afghanistan is mired in confusion and the security establishment here has preferences that are not palatable to the American side. Now, with spring approaching, the predicted upsurge in violence in Afghanistan may cause tensions to spike again between the US and Pakistan.

Perhaps the first thing Mr Grossman could do is to try and bring a degree of patience and restraint to the American approach towards Pakistan. Mr Grossman’s predecessor, the late Richard Holbrooke, learned fairly quickly that a gruff and imperious approach towards Pakistan unnecessarily added to the tensions. Pakistan has long argued that it should be treated as a partner, not bullied as a troublesome ally. Like any state, Pakistan has its own national interests and the fact that they are not always in sync with American strategy in the region needs to be accepted. If Mr Grossman can quickly establish a reasonable working relationship with his interlocutors on the Pakistani side, perhaps that could help when thornier issues are taken up — which, realistically, will be sooner than later. Ultimately, the Pakistani side knows that whatever the differences between the two countries, there is an interdependency that cannot be wished away. That means there will always be room for compromise. It won’t be easy but that is precisely the job of a diplomat: squaring the differences.

Mr Grossman’s greatest challenge, however, does not lie in Pakistan. The strategy that the Obama administration has chosen for Afghanistan — surge and exit — shows few signs of working. A new realism needs to be injected into American policy in the region. Losing Afghanistan is one thing; losing Pakistan would be an unmitigated disaster. The tail should no longer wag the dog. Perhaps it is time to craft a policy for the region that is Pakistan-centric instead of Afghanistan-centric.

No comments:

Post a Comment