By ATUL COWSHISH
New Delhi (Syndicate Features): This year again the Americans drained their emotions, as they have been doing for a decade on the day, on the 10th anniversary of the 11 September, 2001 terror attacks by Al Qaeda that had resulted in 3000 deaths and destroyed the Twin Towers in New York and a part of the Pentagon. President Barrack Obama repeated that his country was not at war with Islam and will never be.
That oft-repeated message from the US President may be politically and diplomatically correct, but time has come to ask: does it have the desired effect; does it change anything on the ground? India has to watch how our own security interests will be affected if after some ‘tough’ posturing, the US goes ‘soft’ on Pakistan. It will not be difficult to conclude that it can only mean more trouble for India from across the border.
The Muslim world does not seem to believe what the US or its President says. The people on the Arab streets who are out in revolt against their dictatorial regimes are not necessarily ready to welcome the Americans with bear hugs. Most leaders in the Muslim world say the US continues to ‘interfere’, if not ‘invade’, Muslim countries (in the Middle East) even when it supports the democratic aspirations in the troubled Muslim lands.
There is hardly any Muslim country where anti-US feelings are not widespread, both at the street level and higher echelons of power. The most glaring of this phenomenon is Pakistan where nearly 90 per cent of the population harbours anti-American sentiments.
Washington is well aware of this reality. The peak period in anti-Americanism in Pakistan probably started after the Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was killed last May in his hideout in Abbottabad cantonment near Islamabad by US Navy Seal commandoes. The relations between the US and its ‘ally’ in South Asia have been deteriorating since then to an extent that worries both countries.
So, what are the US and Pakistan doing so that their very old ties do not result in a divorce? The first thing that strikes is that the US keeps on finding ways to ‘award’ Pakistan with cash, if not all the military hardware of its choice. This, despite the fact that all the billions pumped into Pakistan since 2001 have only heightened the anti-American sentiments in the country, suitably aided and abetted by the ‘establishment’ and the ‘vibrant’ media!
As far as Pakistan is concerned it doesn’t feel the need to do much to initiate steps for improving relations with the US, secure in the belief that the onus of repairing the severely damaged bilateral ties lies largely on the US. All that Islamabad is willing to do is tone down the anti-US rhetoric from its ‘establishment’ while continuing to let the media and the ‘civil society’ spread the poison against the US.
Caught in a bind, the US has been making reconciliatory gestures towards Pakistan, beginning with what one suspects a covert assurance that Pakistan will have a lot of say in deciding the nature of government in Afghanistan after the (likely?) US troop withdrawal next year.
Pakistan no longer looks too worried about the suspension or cut in aid announced at the height of US-Pakistan spat after a CIA contractor was arrested and jailed by the Pakistanis on a charge of murder. This is not because the Pakistanis have actually started to believe in their own bravado (‘we don’t need US aid’), but because the US thinks that one of the best ways to silence the Pakistanis is to offer them heaps and heaps of cash and military hardware. Though he subsequently retracted it, Gen Pervez Musharraf had actually ‘sold’ terrorists of ‘foreign’ origin caught inside Pakistan!
As in the past, the US has been shutting its eyes to Chinese export of nuclear material to Pakistan. It is a US gesture related to its inability to accept the entire shopping list of the Pakistani military, which wants the latest and the most sophisticated military equipment to ‘fight terror’! The Pakistanis have played their Chinese card repeatedly in recent weeks, to tell the Americans that they have an unquestioning ‘all weather’ friend who will fulfil all their wish list, should the US decide to ‘abandon’ its South Asian ally from Cold War days.
The US has virtually stopped asking Pakistan to go after the terrorist networks holed up in North Waziristan even though the Drone attacks by US unmanned flying machines are no substitute for actual ground operation. The US has utterly failed to press its ‘ally’ to do something to stop regular attacks on Nato convoys that pass through Pakistan on way to delivering non-military goods for troops in Afghanistan.
Succumbing to noises from Pakistan, the US has bought the Pakistani propaganda that its contribution to fighting terror is unmatched by any other nation. An advertisement taken out by the Pakistan government in some US publications on the occasion of the 9/11 anniversary this year quoted figures of high civilian and military casualties on account of attack by terrorists.
There is no doubt that a lot more Pakistanis have been killed in terrorist attacks than in many other terror-affected countries. But the unfortunate casualty figures have to be seen in light of the fact that Pakistan alone is regarded as the ‘epicentre’ of terror. That is to say that Pakistan is the breeding ground of terrorists and, therefore, it is not surprising that the casualty figures are high in that country.
The fact remains that a section of terrorists continue to operate unhindered in Pakistan. Most people believe that these terrorists enjoy state patronage; certainly that of the Pakistan Army. If you live in a menagerie of wild animals you are more likely to be injured by them than anyone else.
India’s protests, if any, are unlikely to make any impression in Washington where the countdown to the next Presidential poll has begun and all indications are that Barrack Obama is on a very tough wicket. And if he has to choose between India and Pakistan, he will certainly like to be seen to be placating Pakistan rather than India, as that may help him sell the idea to his people that he is doing something to minimise the threat of terror emanating from the land of the pure. (Syndicate Features)