Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?
According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Rice told Pakistan there was “irrefutable evidence” that elements within the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks. And it quotes unnamed sources as saying that behind-the-scenes she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of the perpetrators, otherwise the U.S. will act”.
India’s Business Standard said the Indian government was pleased with the U.S. warning. “This is exactly what India wanted,” the newspaper said.
The Times of India, however, fretted the U.S. action against Pakistan appeared to be “turning tepid”, in public at least. It attributed the U.S. approach to the perceived need to avoid backing the civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari into a corner. (India has specifically not accused the Pakistan government of involvement in the Mumbai attacks, pointing instead to militant groups supported by Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.) It also said the United States was wary of destabilising a partner on which it depends crucially as a transit route for supplies to Afghanistan, while also being hobbled by the change of administration in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Pakistan to cooperate “fully and transparently” in investigations into the Mumbai attacks, while U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has pointed a finger at Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group.
That’s probably the kind of language that would go down well in India, which has been frustrated in the past by what it saw as the United States’ failure to acknowledge the threat from Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups, instead preferring to rely on Pakistan as a useful ally in the region while focusing its own energies on defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed a group with “external linkages” for coordinated attacks which killed more than 100 people in Mumbai. The language was reminiscent of the darker days of India-Pakistan relations when India always saw a Pakistan hand in militant attacks, blaming groups it said were set up by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to seek revenge for Pakistan’s defeat by India in the 1971 war.
An attack on India’s parliament in December 2001 triggered a mass mobilisation along the two countries’ borders and brought them close to a fourth war. That attack was blamed by India on the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed - hardline Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda. Both have been associated with the kind of “fedayeen” attacks – in which the attackers, while not necessarily suicide bombers, are willing to fight to the death — seen in Mumbai.
“There is a little bit of Indian in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistani in every Indian and I speak today as a Pakistani, as much as the little Indian in me”- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari quoting his assassinated wife Benazir Bhutto.
Words spoken straight from the heart, and directly to the millions of families on either side of the border, mine included, with common customs, language and roots until severed by Partition into two nations, two people unable or unwilling to live at peace with each other ever since.
After watching the tumultuous events of the past couple of years, and knowing that 12 months ago the idea of Asif Ali Zardari becoming president figured nowhere on my list of scenarios, I’ve learned to hedge.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari says he would be ready to commit to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, in what would be a dramatic overturning of Pakistan’s nuclear policy. Pakistan has traditionally seen its nuclear weapons as neutralising Indian superiority in conventional warfare, and refused to follow India’s example of declaring a no first use policy after both countries conducted nuclear tests in 1998.
Zardari was speaking via satellite from Islamabad to a conference organised by the Hindustan Times when he was asked whether he was willing to make an assurance that Pakistan would not be the first to use nuclear weapons.
Pakistan has agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $7.6 billion emergency loan to stave off a balance of payments crisis.
Shaukat Tarin, economic adviser to the prime minister, said the IMF had endorsed Pakistan’s own strategy to bring about structural adjustments. The agreement is expected to encourage other potential donors, who are gathering in Abu Dhabi on Monday for a “Friends of Pakistan” conference.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has assured Pakistani President Asif Al Zardari of his support for democracy in the frontline nation during a telephone call on Friday, Pakistan’s official state agency said.
Obama’s conversation was part of a round of phone calls he made to world leaders including Britain, Israel, Japan, Australia, France and Germany, mainly to thank them for their messages of congratulation following his victory.
Pakistan cropped up with uncomfortable regularity during the U.S. presidential campaign, but listening to Barack Obama and John McCain it was difficult to discern how different their approach would be in dealing with one of America’s most complicated and conflicted allies.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari met leaders of both the Democrat and Republican camps just weeks after his own election in September, but unfortunately the controversy stirred by his unguarded compliment for Sarah Palin earned more comment than the substance of those meetings.
Pakistan will begin talks with the International Monetary Fund over the next few days to secure funding to avert a balance of payments crisis, the IMF said in a statement from Washington.
The statement came after days of speculation that seemed to have gathered pace after President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to China where according to these media reports he failed to win a commitment for cash to shore up the country’s reserves, barely enough to cover six weeks of imports.