The bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the United States is a fraught one — it waxes and wanes and is characterized by mutual suspicion and not a little hostility. In recent years, the warmth has almost totally disappeared though both realize that they need each other. That the U.S. does not trust the Pakistani establishment was clear from the Obama administration’s decision to go it alone in the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
Now the U.S. side has fired another salvo, and a deadly one at that. U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad Cameron Munter has bluntly said there is evidence to link the dreaded Haqqani network with the Pakistan government, and that “this must stop”. Rarely have American officials been so forthright, though veiled references to the deep connections between Army and intelligence officials and terrorist groups have been made in the past.
It is not at all surprising that the U.S. is angry and frustrated at what it sees as Pakistani duplicity. In the post 9/11 world, America is in no mood to ignore such a double game. Earlier, successive U.S. governments had ignored reports of terrorists operating from Pakistani soil and endorsed by powerful local elements. No longer. U.S. Defense secretary Leon Panetta has already warned, in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul, that his government will go after insurgents wherever they may be. And now President Barack Obama’s refusal to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani during the latter’s coming United Nations visit must also be seen in that light.
It is now certain that U.S. pressure on Pakistan will increase. With its recent success in killing bin Laden, the U.S. feels its strategy of going it alone will yield results. As for Pakistan, its government and its military services may chafe but are in no position to stand up to the U.S., not if they want to keep getting their arms and weaponry.
The Asian Age, Mumbai, India (Sept. 21)