Islamabad, Washington dance their way to reconciliation
Although it might not be the most pleasing of sights – not by a long shot – but one could definitely imagine respective US and Pakistan presidents Barack Obama and Asif Ali Zardari doing a leg-twitching, pelvis shaking synchronized dance a la Elvis Presley on the 1970 classic “Patch it Up”. For, not only do the lyrics fit uncannily to the bilateral mood between the two countries over the past month or so, the track can also be earmarked as the background score for Pakistan’s ISI Executive Lt General Zaheer-ul-Islam’s meeting with the CIA Director David Petraeus in Washington, as they mull over pulling out the thorns that lie in the path to US-Pakistan patch-up as this piece is being scribed.
Breakups can be gruelingly tough, and both the US and Pakistan would be lying to themselves – and to each other, for that matter – if they had not perceived the sword of divorce hanging over their acrimonious relationship ever since the Salala attacks. With Pakistan – clearly playing the fragile lady to the US’s domineering man, if one were to persist with the analogy – plugging NATO supply routes, in what was an uncharacteristically bold step from Islamabad, the bond clearly reached rupture point. Funny how that magic tonic formally known as an “apology” can mend relationship cracks like an Ayurvedic herbal medicine, synthesized exclusively to heal emotional wounds.
Nuptial surgeons (oft dubbed ‘Love Gurus’) claim that there is nothing more soothing for a troubled relationship than a timely apology. This is especially true if the guilty party can later on convince themselves that they did not, in fact, apologize at all, while the aggrieved party gets the requisite ego boost to reaffirm their belief that they’ve indeed scored a pointer against their partner. This, ladies and gentlemen, is known as the ‘Perfect Apology’ – one that Hilary Clinton conjured up with flawless nonchalance last month – in conjugal literature, since it meticulously caters to both the respective egocentric needs and the long-term requirements of the liaison.
The Perfect Apology can become a necessity in relationships like the Pak-American one, where the partners find living with each other rather unpleasant, but at the end of the day they simply cannot live without one another. “With Or Without You” anyone? Maybe we should stick to ‘Patch It Up’ for the time being.
Pakistan has signed an accord with the US regarding supply routes for the international forces in Afghanistan this week, while the US has agreed upon releasing the previously withheld economic assistance – worth in excess of $1 billion – as the two countries look set to scratch each other’s backs en route to patching things up. And now with both the ‘supply routes reopening’ and ‘economic assistance release’ scores settled, the groundwork has been laid for Islamabad and Washington to get down to the nitty-gritty of the patch-up; which is precisely why the ISI chief is currently sitting in Washington and drawing out the roadmap of recovery with his CIA counterpart. Even so, as the cliché goes, the complete patch-up is easier said than done.
The obvious thorns that need to be plucked are of course, Pakistan’s vociferous opposition to the US drone strikes that target the ‘terrorist zones’, and the American skepticism with regards to Pakistani military’s ‘amiable’ connections with the HQN (Haqqani Network). The drone attacks have led to insurgency in Pakistan as masses and politicians alike, protest against the strikes that are resulting in a mounting civilian death toll, while ISI’s alleged affair with HQN has been considered as Islamabad cheating on Washington since the Haqqani Network is considered to be the biggest threat to American forces and their operation in Afghanistan. Islamabad sees the allegation as mere divergence on the part of Washington who might just be looking for excuses to shroud their failure in what has been an embarrassingly catastrophic ‘War on Terror’.
Pakistan also has reservations about the increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan, and wants more of a leading role in the Afghan ‘Endgame’. Especially considering the fact that the US and NATO troops are ostensibly all set to leave the region in 2014, the prospect of India filling that vacuum of influence is not something that Pakistan would find particularly amusing. This is precisely why the Pakistan-Russia-China axis is surfacing in the South Asian picture, as a multitude of players vie to rewrite the rulebook in the Afghan Endgame.
And hence, with everything said and done, even though “we can patch it up baby” after the recent manifestations of Washington-Islamabad love-in, don’t expect the myriad of skeptics to shimmy on the reconciliation, till the drone and HQN disputes are settled.
The writer is a staff member and can be reached at email@example.com