Pakistanis seem uncomfortable with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to India. The same pictures have run repeatedly on all the television channels. Clinton is animated and lively, her head thrown back in laughter as she announces the latest agreement with India with Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna by her side. It also does not improve matters that the agreement in question paves the way for billions of dollars worth of weapons contracts, as India becomes one of the biggest spenders on arms.
As Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, research fellow at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, said, "Not one of the biggest, India is THE biggest spender on military hardware in the world right now. And a 34 percent increase in their defense budget does not send out the right signals to Pakistan."
Analysts have expressed their alarm, confusion and betrayal in response to the US-India End-Use Monitoring Agreement. They feel there is much to be threatened by as Pakistan's neighbor and perceived or projected (at this point, many Pakistanis acknowledge the enemy lies within) archenemy is seen as an emerging global power. The argument is that the Americans have been pressuring Pakistan to do more in the war against terrorism, but when it shows its commitment, the rewards are not just. Pakistan is at present engaged in an open-ended military operation against the Taliban that has left close to 3 million people displaced.
According to retired diplomat Zafar Hilaly, it makes no sense for American companies to be selling military equipment to India as it only serves to make Pakistan insecure, which works in nobody's interest - certainly not that of the United States. "As long as we're anxious about the Indians," he argues, "we'll keep our troops on the eastern border rather than bring them in to fight the Taliban in Waziristan or deploy them along the Balochistan border in case of spillover from the latest US offensive in Afghanistan."
Pakistan has objected to the expansion of American combat operations in neighboring Afghanistan. The New York Times describes noises of disapproval coming out of Islamabad as "creating new fissures in the alliance with Washington at a critical juncture when thousands of new American forces are arriving in the region."
The phrase 'new fissures' is indicative of Pakistan's love-hate relationship with the United States. Pakistan has complained bitterly of having been abandoned by its long-standing friend time and again through the course of history. Ironically, it was Hillary Clinton who made the surprising admission that the criticism was justified.
Hence the sense of betrayal, which is further compounded when Pakistan's requests for increased military aid are ignored. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani made the request to Richard C. Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, while he was on his fourth visit to Islamabad. While Mr Holbrooke applauded Islamabad on taking on the Pakistani Taliban over the past few months, there were no commitments forthcoming. According to a Washington Post report, "weapons requests have long been a staple of Pakistan's relationship with the United States, but some diplomats said concern has increased after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took steps this week to boost military sales to India."
Now in all of this, it must be said that the most significant damage may be to the resumption of the India-Pakistan peace process. For Pakistanis to think, which they appear to be according to the aforementioned article, that the agreement between Washington and New Delhi could lead to an arms race in the region is a bit delusional. The cash-strapped government of President Asif Ali Zardari is scarcely capable of spending billions of dollars on military equipment when his people are burning tires over power breakdowns.
However, after Sharm-al-Sheikh, where the two prime ministers met on the sidelines of the Non Aligned Movement Summit, when Indian hawks were accusing Manmohan Singh of selling out, the Pakistani media was full of praise for the statesman. There was hope of composite dialogue despite the fact that Pakistan decided to release Hafiz Saeed, the head of the Jamaat-ud-Daawa, formerly the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group believed by the Indians to be behind the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Shortly before the Singh-Gillani meeting in Egypt, the Pakistan government declared it did not have the evidence to detain Saeed to which the Indian media reacted with displeasure. Even so the mood was optimistic between the neighboring countries, and it would be a real shame for that to go awry.
What is also unfortunate is that the monitoring agreement with India appears to have overshadowed the efforts made by the United States to help the refugees of the Swat military operation. With the Kerry-Lugar Bill that ensures $1.5 billion annual assistance for Pakistan over the next five years, and an additional $165 million to the previously pledged $330 million for the rehabilitation of the refugees, the Americans are the biggest contributors of aid in the face of this crisis. And yet, several Pakistanis see this as another betrayal. This piece was first published in Dawn.com
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