Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Pakistan still the greatest worry, says Biden
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told CNN this week that his biggest worry was not Afghanistan, not Iraq and not even Iran which is hurtling into a fresh confrontation with the West over its nuclear programme. The big concern was Pakistan with its nuclear weapons and a radicalised section of society.
“It’s a big country. it has nuclear weapons that are able to be deployed. It has a real significant minority of radicalised population. It is not a completely functional democracy in the sense we think about it. And so….. that’s my greatest concern.”
Biden’s remarks are unlikely to go down well in Pakistan, which bristles at being lumped with dangerous countries . Indeed the vice-president has spoken just when reports were emerging that the United States and Pakistan were starting to feel more comfortable with each other after a rocky couple of years. Pakistan has won praise from U.S. military leaders for its successful operation in the difficult terrain of South Waziristan. It has also sought a key role in a resolution of the Afghan war, offering to mediate with Taliban factions operating from its soil.
Indeed, a top expert has suggested that this is perhaps the time to offer Pakistan a civilian nuclear deal on the lines of the one agreed to with India, to win its complete cooperation in the war on terrorism. C. Christian Fair, a professor at Georgetown University, says nuclear cooperation could deliver results where billions of dollars of American aid have failed. “More so than conventional weapons or large sums of cash, a conditions-based civilian nuclear deal may be able to diminish Pakistani fears of U.S. intentions while allowing Washington to leverage these gains for greater Pakistani cooperation on nuclear proliferation and terrorism,” she wrote in an article in The Wall Street Journal
The two criteria that Pakistan would have to meet is, first, provide access and cooperation on nuclear suppliers’ networks such as the one that was run by A.Q. Khan and dismantle them. Second, it would have to demonstrate sustained and verifiable commitment in combating all terrorist groups on its soil, including those groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba that Pakistan often calls “freedom fighters” acting on behalf of Kashmir and India’s Muslims.
It will be a long haul, given that the thing that terrifies America the most about Pakistan is the ” nexus of nuclear proliferation and Islamist militancy” as Fair says. Indeed, even the Indian deal has taken five years to go through and its a long way off before there is movement on the ground.
America and Pakistan have long had a complicated relationship but what does one make of these contradictory signals ?