Lessons of an ‘incoherent’ US policy on Pakistan

Joginder Singh ji
(Former Director -CBI )

In the eighth Psalm of the Bible, David speaks of the great love and goodness that God makes known on earth. He talks about the “truth coming out of the mouth of babes and sucklings”. This is exactly what the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton did on May 19, 2009, when she trashed 30-years of American policy towards Pakistan, including the eight years of her husband’s presidency.
She called the American policy “incoherent”. However, she pledged the Obama administration’s abiding support for the civilian democratic government which is now at the helm. Her exact words were: “I think that it is fair to say that our policy toward Pakistan over the last 30 years has been incoherent. I don’t know any other word to use. We came in the ’80s and helped to build up the Mujahideen to take on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis were our partners in that. Their security service and their military were encouraged and funded by the United States to create the Mujahideen in order to go after the Soviet invasion and occupation. The Soviet Union fell in 1989 and we basically said, thank you very much; we had all kinds of problems in terms of sanctions being imposed on the Pakistanis”.
She, in other words, implied that it was unfair on the US part to abandon and sanction Islamabad after taking its help to defeat the Soviet Union, and that the US should share that blame for Pakistan’s present condition. At the same time, she announced an emergency $110 million aid to Pakistan for the humanitarian crisis in Swat.
She ignored the fact that Washington imposed sanctions on Islamabad in 1990 for its transgression of nuclear red lines (weaponising). Especially after having held back from doing so with the Pressler Amendment, which was originally devised to allow the US President to certify that Pakistan had not crossed the nuclear Laxman Rekha.
The secretary of state said US President Barack Obama’s new approach towards Pakistan “is qualitatively different than anything that has been tried before” in the way it supports the democratically-elected government and demands transparency and honesty. The factual position is that all Pakistani governments had the same approach of promoting terrorist groups against India, whether it was in the attack on Kargil or the Indian Parliament or the recent attacks in Mumbai.
Her colleague, secretary of defence Robert Gates, said the Pakistani intelligence agency is “playing both sides”, adding that though Islamabad has committed itself to be part of the US-led war against terror in the region, it continues to maintain links with extremist elements.
The real problem with individuals and nations is the same. We cannot foresee the results of any action we do today. No individual or country can know what is about to happen, as everything happens for the first time. We can make predictions about the future based on our present or past experiences. We always face the future with the past and present in mind. There cannot be consistency for all times to come in the affairs of nations and men.
Lord Palmerston, a former British Prime Minister, once said, “Nations have no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests”. This is very true in the case of Pakistan and USA.
Pakistan served as a link between Beijing and Washington in 1971, facilitating the clandestine visit of the then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger to China, which made the visit of President Richard Nixon to China possible, leading to relations thawing between them. Consistency is contrary to existence and contrary to our being. Our prime concern is our national interest, not some ethical principles however laudable they may be. We can learn a lesson or two from the statement of the US secretary of state and the policies of all previous administration of using others to fight their battles in Asia. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to learn the hard way, by history repeating itself.
Americans believe money is the biggest magnet to get people to do their bidding. India has to fight its own battles against terrorism. There is no doubt that American aid will get diverted to train the Mujahideens, the Taliban and other terrorists groups to create problems against India.
There is no way Americans can check whether their $1.5 billion per year get used properly or not. Pakistan’s campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda is not inspired by any ideals to eradicate terrorism from the world. Its simple objective is to carry out the mandate as a vassal of its master who keeps it plied with billions of dollars at the cost of its own taxpayers. Evidently, it is at best a mercenary relationship which does not include the closing of anti-India terrorist outfit camps. That’s why the US dropped any reference to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India, in the conditions for the monetary aid.
The war against terrorism by Pakistan is half-hearted. While in northwestern frontier it tries to show some activity in curbing fundamentalists, it still protects terror groups and criminals wanted by India.
India has generally been vigilant post Mumbai terror attacks last year, which is perhaps why there have been no attacks in the country so far. But all this by our own efforts, with no help from Americans or other countries. It will be unwise to expect others to battle for us.
In such changing times we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.