Editorial : Tougher times? Sunday, April 17, 2011

Washington appears to have slid off its velvet gloves – or even any plain cotton ones it may have worn as far as its dealings with Pakistan go. An opinion article in the influential Wall Street Journal suggests that it is time to get tough with Islamabad, and indeed put to it that very same question, demanding a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, that was put forward after 9/11 when Islamabad was asked if it was with the US or not. The answer this time round may not prove easy for President Zardari and his team to give. The US is said to be annoyed over the clumsy strategy of allowing drone attacks privately, but then, condemning them publically. The president is reported to have allowed increased drone strikes, which explains the record number of strikes we saw in 2010. Patience with such duplicity is obviously wearing thin in other places, as it is at home.

It is also said that Washington does not trust the ISI – and we wonder if it is only a coincidence that the latest indications of a change in line come soon after a meeting between the intelligence chiefs of both countries. CIA Director Leon Panetta has meanwhile made it clear that his agency has every intention of continuing operations in Pakistan. Joint missions with the ISI were widely reported to have been suspended in the aftermath of the untidy Raymond Davis affair, and there has been reason to believe that some CIA agents may, at least temporarily, have been pulled out of the country.

To sum up a highly complex situation rather briefly, we can say the government seems in effect to have botched things up rather badly. It clearly does not have, for now, the capacity to withdraw from its bear-hug relationship with the US. There are both economic and political reasons for this. While reasserting sovereignty is obviously desirable, this cannot happen suddenly. It will take time to do so and movement in this direction presents various challenges. We can only wonder if the government has the capacity to handle these sensibly. The new foreign policy equation put up by our most important ally on the blackboard is not an easy one to solve. Yet, it is necessary that this be done to prevent ourselves from becoming even more vulnerable to crisis in the short- term, even as we, for the longer term, consider precisely how we wish to tackle Washington while at the same time taking on the militants and the enormous threat they represent.

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=42070&Cat=8

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