“As has been prior to the meeting, conclusions are in abundance over the outcome of the entire visit, and I wasn’t surprised to see some noted institutions safely concluding that it has been an utter failure of Nawaz/ Pakistan, while some media houses from our neighbors flashing “Obama Snubs Nawaz over ………” etc. Expectations and outcomes are truly driven by real time circumstances, and it is disappointing to witness reality being sidelined from this affair.”
by Hamid Abbasi
It is well established that Islamabad and Washington have more to cure than CBM’s like Afridi and Aafia. While pundits reason bilateral, it seems that both Nawaz and Obama have remained regional in their approach and action plan.
PM Nawaz Sharif, with his newly obtained democratic mandate has wrapped up the all-important expedition to White House in his first formal interaction with US President (Obama) and his team in the week gone by. Long before the trip itself materialized, the rumor machine was spinning in all directions over the agenda, stances and the possible outcome of Nawaz-Obama interaction.
Leading comfortably over all other issues was the much talked about, but still mystified US/CIA Drone program which is now stretched to different continents. Being the most sensitive issue to any existing government in Islamabad for close to a decade, it gained tremendous strength with different segments in America and Europe questioning their legitimacy and gains. On the eve of the one on one meeting between Obama and Nawaz at The Oval, Amnesty International came with its understanding and translation of US Drone Program, terming it a war crime, and of course that too with a “state” patronage.
Secondly, fingers were pointed toward the possible “understanding” over the exchange of Pakistani prisoner Dr Aafia with Shakeel Afridi, who is held for collaborating with US intelligence over the 2/5 operation which eliminated Al Qaeda chief OBL.
Secondary to these leads were issues relevant to the economic meltdown and energy crisis in Pakistan, the recently initiated “Peace Talks” with Taliban (Pakistan Chapter) and so on. Toward the end of the reported 90 minute long interaction between Obama-Nawaz, the two sides managed to pull out a joint proclamation, unlike the one already floated on media screens prior to the actual meeting itself.
As has been prior to the meeting, conclusions are in abundance over the outcome of the entire visit, and I wasn’t surprised to see some noted institutions safely concluding that it has been an utter failure of Nawaz/ Pakistan, while some media houses from our neighbors flashing “Obama Snubs Nawaz over ………” etc. Expectations and outcomes are truly driven by real time circumstances, and it is disappointing to witness reality being sidelined from this affair.
From Pakistan prospective, the security has remained centric to its domestic environment in the recent past, and so has been the case during Nawaz-Obama meeting. It remains at forefront as Pakistan has lost 40,000 of its LEA personnel’s and civilians in the ongoing war on terror, being dragged into Pakistani territory in the aftermath of US invasion of Afghanistan. The same issues have remained pivotal to US policy post 9/11, with Afghanistan being the common element for both sides.
Having said this, from the onset the agenda has been regional rather than bilateral, which is widely believed and reported. For US, its multi billion ($) investment into Afghanistan security stands at stake in the light of planned withdrawal in 2014. At no cost US will be willing to leave Kabul unstable for Mullah Umar to reclaim it. At the same time in Islamabad whispers have become audible voices toward US confidential withdrawal strategy in Afghanistan. Pakistan, having suffered the most in post 9/11 timeline, is highly critical of the setup US leaves in Kabul after its withdrawal, knowing well that any failure will have its ripple effect for the region, especially Pakistan.
This has brought the two gentleman to the bargaining table where they can understand the position of each other, and in true diplomatic terms “assist each other for collective relief”. US move of reaching out to the Taliban of Afghanistan has been reciprocated in Pakistan, though on both side it has to mature.
Drone strikes have been centric to US war strategy in not only Pakistan’s tribal belt, but infact across the globe. Their efficiency is unchallenged, as the say “Give the Devil its due”. Islamabad knows well this importance though for it every strike means less credibility of the regime at home, violation of its sovereignty and fuel for Taliban’s (Pakistan Chapter) brutal terror against its civilians and LEA personnel’s. Islamabad would love to have control over the “unmanned warriors” of the skies, once US and Pakistan have in grey and white agreed on their collective enemy. The Pakistani army is already stretched at multiple front in one of the most testing battle strategy ever devised and drones can be a real relief for all stake holders involved. War has no morals nor standards, so those dreaming of US paying heed to civilian causalities in place of their effectiveness are only misinterpreting the ground realities.
Moving to the other important issue which has remained central to the one on one meeting between Obama and Nawaz is the economic hardship faced by Pakistan, largely due to the incompetency of previous regimes as well as the ongoing war on terror and its impact. As understood and realistic, US will be extending its resources to Pakistan to stabilize its economic woes for its own benefit toward the end. Of course with economy back on track, Nawaz and his men will be in a better position to manage the affairs at home and elsewhere than they are right now.
Based on this fact sheet, it can be safely assumed that the visit and all the associated factors have gone as per the plan and the need of both US-Pakistan as well as the region. Islamabad and Washington have learned the hard way of understanding each other’s interests and aspirations and if it has started to happen finally, it is not at all too late. Once the basics have been set straight, the CBM,s over issues mentioned at the top will subsequently find their way.