Pakistan's civilian and military leadership lives in perpetual self delusion. While Indians are aware of propensity of the Islamabad and Rawalpindi, General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army of weaving a web of deceit and denial, soon the new administration in the United States under President Obama is likely to be challenged by this deception. President Zardari has set the ball into motion in an article in the Washington Post which was reproduced in New Delhi in the Indian Express of 30 January.
Zardari made a number of demands on the United States including economic and military assistance and political interjection in South Asia. Apart from the economic package Mr. Zardari demanded military aid on the plea that Pakistan had made 'remarkable progress' in the fight against Taliban and Al Qaeda, but was unable to, 'fully execute battle plans', and asked for, 'necessary resources to upgrade the equipment and technology to fight the terrorists proactively.
Zardari conveniently forgot to mention that provinces such as Swat had been lost to the Taliban over the past few months. This fantasy that the Pakistani leadership has may one day see its undoing, for the Obama administration may not be as amenable to deception as previous governments in Washington. He also appealed for intervention on Kashmir drawing parallel with Palestine, linked Afghanistan, Pakistan and India in a single phrase and put across an additional point of contention vis-'-vis India, water.
Fortunately the Obama administration in Washington has shown clear signs of a perceptible shift in demanding more accountability from Pakistan on efforts against terrorism. The Obama administration linked financial aid to Pakistan with its ability to ensure security in the border regions adjoining Afghanistan. "(President Barack) Obama and (Vice President Joe) Biden will increase non-military aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan," the White House said after release of foreign policy agenda document of the new Presidential team. While Pakistan has been authorized a substantial amount, 7.5 billion US dollars over five years in aid for development of education, infra structure and health care, this has for the first time been linked to counterterrorism results. The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act is likely to receive the approval of the US Congress shortly.
The large tranche of aid provided to the country would facilitate the government to undertake long term growth and development. However would accountability force the hand of the Army to act remains to be seen, for the Army is being increasingly accused of sham operations in the FATA resulting in the terrorists getting away and also more and more casualties to civilians as well as the army's own troops the Frontier Corps.
Instead of opposing the US move Pakistan needs to accept this as a positive stroke to review counter terrorism results and take tough measures to put down violence. The domestic opinion may have to be shaped accordingly for a number of people in Pakistan are opposed to American incursions particularly drone attacks seen as violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is however ironical given that the state has already lost its sovereignty to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in FATA and NWFP where in some areas even locals are fearful for their lives.
The move by the US administration was inevitable as USAID has temporarily closed approximately 25 projects in the FATA and settled areas of the NWFP due to security concerns. USAID has been working on a comprehensive programme to support short, medium and long-term objectives of the government of Pakistan's FATA Sustainable Development Plan (FSDP) 2006-2015. In another move, Gen David Petraeus, the US commander for southwest Asia, announced in Islamabad on that the United States had negotiated new supply lines for allied troops in Afghanistan through Central Asia.
The United States policy in the region is now clearly linking results achieved in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 'There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the al Qaeda and Taliban bases along the border, and there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan,' said the US President Barack Obama. The Pakistan President was the first to be called up by Hillary Clinton on taking charge as the Secretary of State.
This signifies a new integrated strategy for the two states. In the joint strategy diplomatic leverages that the US has against Pakistan are limited but these include some powerful tools for engagement and incentive linked package of aid is one which the Secretary of State and the US envoy nominated Mr Holbrooke would be using quite often mostly in subtle ways. Pakistan would be certainly asking for some concessions on Kashmir and may hyphenate the issue of assistance to the US on counter terrorism with negotiations on the same.
In the long term the United States would attempt to reduce reliance on Pakistan in South West Asia seeing its unreliability. Unfortunately having placed all its eggs in one basket in the region over the past few decades, this may not happen very early, thus Zardari and the Army may be able to continue with their deception games for some more time, but the end to this is not far, if the shrewd Obama-Biden-Hillary triumvirate has its way.