Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Most Dysfunctional Relationship In The World

If you've watched The Sopranos, then you've had the experience of being bemused at the insanity that was the relationship between Christopher and Adriana (culminating in one of the most memorable hits in the entire series, when Silvio shot Adriana in a forest after Christopher ratted her out for talking to the FBI).

Well, Pakistan and the U.S. make those two look like Abelard and bloody Heloise. Consider the following facts:

1. Aid from the U.S., and other financial institutions such as the IMF at the behest of the U.S., have helped keep Pakistan's economy afloat at a time of great peril. To that end, the U.S. is promising seven and a half billion more dollars, and yet the reaction to that promised aid -- wrapped up in a maelstrom of nationalistic, ill-founded and uninformed outrage -- would suggest that the U.S. is stealing that amount of money from Pakistan's coffers, or worse.

2. Pakistan has paid enormous costs, both in treasure as well as in blood, in taking on militant outfits on its soil. And yet the near-constant refrain of "do more" from the U.S. continues unabated. Most recently, the visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she disbelieved that the government was doing all it could to eradicate the presence of al-Qaeda from Pakistani soil. "Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002. I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to." Such statements, especially two days after one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history, smack of insensitivity from someone who is supposed to be the highest diplomat of her country.

3. On the one issue where both governments seem to agree -- that of drone attacks -- the Pakistani populace is angry, both at the civilian toll exacted in the attacks as well as the the perceived incursions on Pakistan's sovereignty the attacks represent. Depending on which poll you trust, between 75 and 90 percent of Pakistanis oppose the use of drones in the tribal areas. This anger was manifested in townhall-style meetings Secretary Clinton held with Pakistani students and professionals on her visit. The strange thing about this anger is that the Pakistani government has, in effect, signed off on the use of drones, and so the logical place for the populace to direct their ire is toward the leaders they democratically elected, not the foreign country those democratically elected leaders have found an agreement with. But that is clearly not the case.

I don't have any broad policy-specific recommendations here. I just wanted to highlight what I consider to be an extremely strange state of affairs. With the abnormally high levels of distrust present in this relationship, it has to be the most bizarre alliance I have ever come across in international politics. Secretary Clinton's visit has brought this vision into sharp focus; it is unclear, from this vantage point, what exactly the three-day tour accomplished, or was meant to accomplish.

It also begs a broader strategic question: if the U.S. and Pakistan cannot cooperate or see eye-to-eye when their security interests overlap for the most part (the dismantling of militant networks on Pakistani soil), when huge amounts of aid are transferred, when diplomats from both countries try to sweet-talk the other to considerable lengths (for every Holbrooke or Clinton reference to seekh kababs, there is a Husain Haqqani or Shah Mahmood Qureshi reference to a "long-term partnership"), is there any hope for this relationship?

Don't shake your head; it was a rhetorical question.


Jaydev,India said...

About US-Pak relationship it was close to Tony Soprano-Johny Sack..and is fast turning into Tony Soprano-Phil Leotardo..relationship..;-)

To be fair to Clinton..the "Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002....."
dialog was response to an angry question..asking why focus of GWOT is on Pak instead of...( Afghanistan?) its not an isolated statement..and has to be put in context to the hostile environment..she was in..

Ahsan said...

So I guess that would make al-Qaeda Vito Spatafore?

Anonymous said...

Friedman's volte face on Afghanistan

Wise Bass said...

is there any hope for this relationship?

Rhetorical, true, but what the hell - I'll answer it. I doubt it - sooner or later the US is probably going to leave Afghanistan, and when that happens, they'll probably try to forget everything about Pakistan and re-align with India to balance China. It's not out of deliberate animosity; it's just that being half-an-ocean away means that most Americans just don't care that much, and there isn't a real equivalent to the Israeli Lobby that keeps US attention focused on Israel.

Most recently, the visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she disbelieved that the government was doing all it could to eradicate the presence of al-Qaeda from Pakistani soil. "Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002. I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to."

She's probably hearing from her aides that the ISI is still fooling around with the Afghans and the like (whether true or not).

Wise Bass said...

EDIT: "Half-the-world away" and "most Americans just don't care that much about foreign affairs unless it directly hits them in the face."

Murdabad said...

The Clinton comments were also backed by the White House, apparently.

'Trust is a two way street' she says. I guess our lack of it is justified then.

Also 3 RAW agents have been caught in one week, the latest near Kasur.

Rabia said...

pakistani anchors vs. hillary clinton:

Chai and the City said...

In a way, their brand of skepticism is warranted, however one only look to the US itself to reveal, they havent done such a smash up job of defeating Al Qaeda either....

Anon_for_good_reason said...

@Chai and the City
Regardless of blasts in India,Iran or Pak..
US is doing a good job defending itself and so is UK with huge nutty muslim population..after their 9/11 & 7/7..respectively..
These two countries are foiling one plot after another..after another..awesome..!!
Though Indian IB dismantled 800 jehad cells(not people..cells) in 2008 alone!!!..still lots of terrorists managed go through the of blood remains to be splattered in years to come in Asia..before this genie can be exorcised..

hemlock said...

she disbelieved that the government was doing all it could to eradicate the presence of al-Qaeda from Pakistani soil

yes, this coming from a representative of a country that bombed afghanistan out of stoneage looking for a "6'5" man on a dialysis machine".

On a separate note, Ahsan, we read your explanation on why google ads had been enabled and all... it's just that they pop up in the reader and that's... invasive?
just saying.

Anon_for_good_reason said...


Use Firefox+
Adblock Plus Extension(Subscribe to EasyList automatically done during restart)
NoScript Extension..only enable scripts for main site..that is
Also Flashblock extension..
Now all is sealed..u wont feel a any difference about Rs.5 browsing experience..i.e.No Ads and stuff..
check out if you care..

To install extensions in Firefox
go to Tools->Addon..and type in the above said extension..

and last but not the least..use
GNU/Linux like Ubuntu or Mint or something..dont use Windows..

hemlock said...

i'd google it, but it's easier this way anon_for_good_reason; does this stuff work on opera too?
no can use any browser except opera 10.

ubuntu will shortly be installed as dual boot option since there's only so much i can mess with an office machine.

Anon_for_good_reason said...

Only use Firefox..sop dont know about others..I mean not just 5rs..
if Adblockplus+Flashblock is there with or without NoScript...
the browsing (am using GNU/Linux only) in my on a level of its on..for example..great way to test heavy Indian site..check before and after Adblock/Flashblock installation ..there will be a world of difference..
This blocks most except Yahoo home page ads..which are huge images..
NoScript is very useful but there is a bit getting use to...otherwise it will feel is excellent for blocking ad servers and third party..sites and good defence against cross-site scripting attacks..etc...etc..

anoop said...

Pakistan and US friendship,if we can call it that, is very unnatural.. Its like Darth Vader and Yoda are friends.. US only wants few things from Pakistan- elimination of Al-Qaeda,transport to Afghanistan. Pakistan doesn't have any positive things to offer America.
But, if you look at US and India, they are very similar countries which believe in democracy,media freedom,equality before law,secularism,etc.. Also, India is projected to be a super power someday and US is sucking up early.. It surely doesn't want India to go with Russia like it had done before.!