Editorial : Fresh tensions - Wednesday 13th April 2011

Reports in the Media on the eve of ISI chief Gen Pasha`s visit to the US for talks with his counterpart at the CIA have painted yet another grim picture of ties between the two spy agencies, and by extension the two states. Apparently, Pakistan is demanding the withdrawal of an unspecified number of CIA operatives, US Special Forces troops and American security contractors from Pakistani soil. The demand appears to be linked to the Pakistan Army`s desire to route more American intelligence through the ISI, thereby limiting the US `footprint` in Pakistan. In addition, Pakistan is believed to be demanding a scaling back of the drone-strike programme in Fata, limiting it perhaps to parts of North Waziristan Agency. In the murky world of Pakistan-US ties on security issues, little can be said for certain. For example, why was the American footprint allowed to grow to an `undesirable` size in the first place? And if it is an open secret that drones are allowed to operate with Pakistan`s permission, then why the need to resort to public pressure to change the programme`s parameters?
Two theories are doing the rounds. One, during the Musharraf era the Americans used the `one-window operation` to exact concessions from the Pakistani state and the present army leadership is keenly trying to roll back. According to this theory, because Gen Musharraf was wearing the twin hats of army chief and president and because of the army`s strict adherence to the chain of command, concessions considered not in the state`s interests were made to the US without much internal debate. The other theory is akin to the camel`s nose under the tent. According to this theory, cooperation between Pakistan and the US on security issues was never spelled out with any specificity that either side could later refer back to in the case of a disagreement. The reason presumably was that ambivalence and vagueness suited both sides, allowing them to adjust their tactics as the relationship between the two countries ebbed and flowed. But that ambivalence has led to the Pakistan side fearing that the entire American camel, as it were, is now trying to enter the Pakistani tent.
Can the chronic tensions between the two countries be tamped down at present? Perhaps not unless the modalities of the security cooperation becomes slightly more transparent. Some `sunlight` on the drone-strikes programme, for example, would reduce the possibility of either side spinning and dissembling on what has been agreed to and what hasn`t. The danger with trying to `manage` tensions, as both sides seem to be doing, is that those tensions could unintentionally spin out of control.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/13/fresh-tensions-2.html

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