India and Pakistan have agreed to try to improve trade ties during the first meeting of their commerce secretaries since the November 2008 attack on Mumbai. The official statement released after the talks in Islamabad suggests the agreement is so far largely aspirational, with working committees set up to look at everything from tariff barriers, to India selling electricity to Pakistan, to visas for businessmen.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
During a visit to Beijing in late 2009, President Barack Obama asked China to help stabilise Pakistan and Afghanistan. The logic was obvious. China is a long-standing ally of Pakistan with growing investments there and in Afghanistan; it has the money to pay for the economic development and trade both countries need; and with its own worries about its Uighur minority, it is suspicious of militant Islamists. The challenge was in achieving this without angering India, which fought a border war with China in 1962 and is wary of its alliance with Pakistan.
For some time, Pakistan has been complaining that it is unfairly criticised for failing to fight al Qaeda-linked insurgents on its side of the border when U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan are also struggling to make headway. This has been particularly the case in Bajaur, where Pakistan said its own military operation against militants were undermined by a decision to pull Western troops back from neighbouring Kunar in Afghanistan. The row over who is to blame for not doing enough to prevent militants moving back and forth across the border between Bajaur and Kunar has been both a reflection of the distrust in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and a persistent source of strain.
(The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK)
I have never read “Three Cups of Tea”, Greg Mortenson’s book about building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I tried to read the sequel, “Stones into Schools” and gave up not too long after the point where he said that, “the solution to every problem … begins with drinking tea.” Having drunk tea in many parts of South Asia – sweet tea, salt tea, butter tea, tea that comes with the impossible-to-remove-with-dignity thick skin of milk tea – I can confidently say that statement does not reflect reality.
If there was one thing the United States might have learned in a decade of war is that military might alone cannot compensate for lack of knowledge about people and conditions on the ground. That was true in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may also turn out to be the case in Libya.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has written a letter to the Supreme Court to review the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — the country’s first popularly-elected prime minister — over three decades ago.