Interstate relations with America are akin to living on a river bank that changes its course every four years, leaving the other party either flooded or in drought. However, in case of Pakistan these unilateral relations fluctuate on day to day basis; each side issuing ‘to do More lists’ too frequently with an urgency call of ‘should have been done yesterday’. The “unilateral and unauthorized” Operation Geronimo, named after the 19th century Chiricahua Apache leader, may turn out to be a watershed in the context of US-Pakistan turbulent relationship. Despite the fact that there is a compulsion for Pakistan – as well as US, to keep the partnership in war on terror on an even keel, the brash American action, regardless of Pakistani priorities and sensitivities, has driven the mounting tension between the two nations ever close to the limits of a breaking point.
Stresses caused by this sort of perpetual ‘breathing down the neck’ approach causes frequent ruptures. Pak-US relationship has generally remained transactional, marred by mistrust. This is indeed a strategic dysfunction undercutting the durability and maturity of these relations.
The reassurance by the COAS has lifted the national mood but the stunning silence following the US strike amply reflected the seething public anger and despondency that the nation felt over such a brazen breach of national sovereignty and pride in the wake of operation Geronimo, The hurt was further compounded by derogatory remarks made by CIA’s out going Chief Leon Panetta who, in a briefing for the lawmakers, said that Pakistan was either incompetent or was involved in aiding the world’s most sought after fugitive.
Such unvarnished display of US arrogance and abrasive rhetoric may be attributable to the early flush of a successful operation yet sanity is bound to return, sooner rather than later, for Pakistan has a strong hand of cards to play in this game.
To US it is evident that there can be no solution for Afghanistan unless Pakistan is duly factored in. Besides, the US war machine operating in Afghanistan is sustained primarily through logistic supplies driven over land route in Pakistan. If US is not inclined to respect us as a sovereign nation then this vital – and economical tap may be squelched. The extent to which we have been liberal in extending our cooperation is tangibly evident from the fact that the heavy Nato container carrying traffic has torn apart our dilapidated highway infrastructure for which the US is paying us no transit fees or compensatory reparations. If US treat us with scorn we should pay back in the same coin by making their dependence on Pakistan obvious and biting.
Even though the nation has been continuously fed lies, the unending façade has made everything readable and transparent. Had the policy planners war-gamed the entire scenario since 2001, Pakistan could well have been on the road to prosperity and a valued commodity on the international scene. The way the country and its affairs have been run ever since are conspicuous by the absence of aspirations of the people for development and progress. With such negativity and plummeting socio-economic conditions, conflict is inevitable. However, common man well aware of the conceit continues to hold back in the hope of a just universal franchise to bring a change.
In this heady moment of intoxicating flush of success, there is a compulsive need for cold reflection within the US politico-security establishment to take a stock of the deep damage caused to Pak-US relations by Operation Geronimo and the imperatives to take corrective actions.
On our part we ought to be prepared to translate our strength vis-a-vis US into tangible policy options to ensure that a repetition doesn’t occur. National interests drive bilateral relations and in our partnership with USA we have to make sure that at the end of the day we are not left in a cleft stick when the US ultimately departs from Afghanistan.
Referencing: Momin Iftikhar