The third US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue for the year 2010 concluded at Washington DC on October 22,2010. The two sides fielded high-power delegations for the dialogue as they had done for the first two rounds held earlier this year in Washington DC and Islamabad. The US delegation was headed by Mrs.Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, and included, among others, Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary. The Pakistani delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and included among others Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff.
2. Apart from the formal talks at the delegation level, where hype pushed the cruel ground realities under the carpet, there were other opportunities for frank interactions which the Americans utilised to tell the Pakistanis what they really thought and expected of them.
3. To quote from the "Dawn" of Karachi of October 22: "Pakistan’s Ambassador Husain Haqqani later told the Pakistani media that President Obama’s decision to ‘drop in’ during a meeting of the ‘core group’ of Pakistani officials with the incoming US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was “not pre-announced but it was pre-planned”. He described it as “the best ever” meeting between a US President and a Pakistani delegation during which President Obama conveyed his “unequivocal support to Pakistan and its democracy”. President Obama, he said, regretted the mistakes the US had made in the past while dealing with Pakistan and assured the Pakistani delegation that Washington would not repeat those mistakes. The US media, however, gave a different version of this meeting. Foreign Policy, a prestigious online magazine for global issues, reported that President Obama “personally delivered the tough love message that other top administration officials have been communicating since the Pakistani delegation arrived”. Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dropped in unannounced at another meeting between Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. She delivered “the message that Washington’s patience is wearing thin with Pakistan’s ongoing reluctance to take a more aggressive stance against militant groups operating from Pakistan over the Afghan border”, the report said. “A similar message was delivered to Gen Kayani in another high-level side meeting on Wednesday morning at the Pentagon, hosted by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm Michael Mullen,” the magazine said. “The message being delivered to Pakistan throughout the week by the Obama team is that its effort to convince Pakistan to more aggressively combat groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba will now consist of both carrots and sticks,” the report added. “But this means that the US administration must find a way to incentivise both the Pakistani civilian and military leadership, which have differing agendas and capabilities,” the report added, “The Obama side is calculating that Pakistan’s military can deliver on subjects important to the US but doesn’t want to, while the civilian leadership in Pakistan wants to, but isn’t able,” said one high-level participant who spoke with the magazine in between sessions. "
4. It is apparent from the reports on the dialogue that came out of Washington DC that the US has not been able to find a way of making Pakistan act to destroy the GHQ (General Headquarters) of Al Qaeda led and inspired terrorism located in the Pakistani territory. One is increasingly confused as to where this GHQ is located. Previously, one thought it was located in North Waziristan. The fierceness of the retaliatory action by the Pakistan Army in response to a recent strike by a NATO helicopter in the Kurram area has created suspicions that at least part of the GHQ may be located in the Kurram Agency. There have been other reports speculating about the possibility of its location in the Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province.
5. Wherever it may be located, one thing seems certain---- the Pakistan Army knows where it is and is not prepared to act against it. The Pakistan Army uses the Punjabi Taliban against India in an attempt to force a change in the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir. It has been using Al Qaeda, the Pashtun Taliban and their global jihadi allies for extracting money out of the US by dangling the threat of another 9/11 over the US head if it does not pay protection money to the Pakistan Army.
6. Despite the blunt words reportedly used by Obama, Mrs.Clinton and Gates in more restricted interactions, more protection money was forthcoming in the form of a five-year commitment (2012-16) of US $ 2.29 billion in military aid euphemistically called counter-terrorism assistance. This will be in continuation of the allocation of US $ 1.5 billion provided by the George Bush Administration in 2005 and of the civilian aid of US $ 7.5 billion over a five-year period already being provided by the Obama Administration since last year under the Kerry Lugar Act.
7.According to the “Dawn”, Pakistan also receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the so-called Coalition Support Fund, which reimburse Pakistan for its military operations against militants. The US reimbursed Pakistan $1.3 billion between January and May for Pakistani operations conducted in 2008 and 2009, but has not yet paid for operations in 2010. Announcing the military aid package, Mrs. Clinton said that the US had full confidence in Pakistan’s commitment to the anti-terrorist fight.
8. The ambivalence in the US policy marked by blunt speaking in restricted sessions and the failure to follow it up with punitive action to make the Pakistan Army act as it frequently promises to has convinced the Pakistan Army over the years that US leaders may warn privately regarding its transgressions but will not act against it. So long as this conviction does not change, Al Qaeda and its associates will remain where they are and will continue to plot and act against US nationals and interests.
9. More money was not the only carrot that Pakistan got during the dialogue. It made other gains in the form of the US commitment to uphold Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, the promise of a separate visit to Pakistan by President Obama next year and an invitation to President Asif Ali Zardari to visit the US. With the carrots continuing to flow from the US in spite of its inaction against Al Qaeda and co., why should it act against the terrorists?
10. Unless and until the US picks up the courage to tell Pakistan “thus far and no further. Either you act or we act”, things are not going to change. The pathetic apologies from the US for a recent raid by a NATO helicopter into Pakistani territory to neutralize terrorists who had attacked NATO positions in Afghanistan have shown to the Pakistan Army the Achilles Heel of the US----- its dependence on Pakistan for logistic supplies to the NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan.
11. The confidence of the Taliban that the US would not act against it for sheltering Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders in Afghan territory contributed to the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US. The present confidence of the Pakistan Army that the US will not act against it for its inaction against Al Qaeda and its allies now sheltered in Pakistani territory will encourage more acts of terrorism against the US and other NATO countries in their respective homelands.
12. The Pakistan Army literally blackmailed the US before the Strategic Dialogue by stopping the logistic supplies to Afghanistan. Instead of teaching it a lesson for its blackmailing tactics, the US not only apologized, but followed it up with more favours for Pakistan. This is not the way the US is going to prevail over Al Qaeda, the Talibans and their allies. ( 24-10-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )