WikiLeaks disclosures will not change US policy towards Pakistan (Comment)

July 31st, 2010 - 10:34 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Amulya Ganguli
The Indian belief that the disclosures by WikiLeaks will finally persuade the Americans to read the riot act to Pakistan is misplaced.

As US President Barack Obama has said, the expose has revealed nothing new. As such, all that the US is likely to say is Pakistan should do “more” to check terrorism. In any event, Washington is apparently more concerned about shooting the messenger for divulging state secrets than in calling Pakistan to account.

Before the WikiLeaks hit the headlines, the London School of Economics had also noted the close links between the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and the Taliban. So did the French academic, Bernard-Henri Levy, while researching on his book, “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” on the murder of a Jewish American journalist by terrorists in Pakistan.

Yet, nothing demonstrated Washington’s mollycoddling of Islamabad more than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s observation that any terrorist attack of the kind which Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, tried to carry out in New York would have had “devastating consequences” for Pakistan if it had been successful.

Two aspects of this statement are worth noting. One is that Pakistan is lucky that the attack failed. The other is that the US is bothered only about direct attacks on it. If the Pakistan-based terrorists carry out such offensives elsewhere, as they did in Mumbai in November 2008, then the Americans will not do anything other than reprimand Pakistan for being naughty.

The same selective approach can be seen in state department spokesman P.J. Crowley’s recent praise for the steps which Pakistan is supposedly taking against extremists “in the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan” which pose a threat, according to him, to both Pakistan and Afghanistan as also to the US, Europe and “other parts of the world”.

There is no direct mention of India or of India-specific terrorist groups against which the Pakistani establishment, notably ISI and the army, are loath to take any action.

While international diplomacy is known to work on the principle that every one for himself and devil take the hindmost, a significant fallout of 9/11 was the realisation that Islamic terrorism is a universal menace and that it would be extremely unwise to visualise it in segments.

However, if America continues to be less concerned about the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and other groups, which are regarded by ISI and the Pakistan Army as their “strategic assets” against India, the reason perhaps is the long history of US-Pakistan collaboration dating back to more than half a century.

It was evident even during the Cold War that Pakistan had reached out to America not because it was eager to assist it against communism, but to acquire arms on that pretext and thereby strengthen itself vis-à-vis India. From the 1950s to the present day, Washington has continued to help Pakistan ostensibly to build up its armoury to fight either the Soviets or the terrorists although ISI and the army - but not the average Pakistani - regard India as their sole enemy.

The earlier camaraderie between Washington and Islamabad was understandable because the US at the time was known to be friendly with more than one dictatorship since it regarded them as “our sons of bitches”, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, in a bipolar world.

In contrast, democratic India was looked down upon, first, for being close to the Soviet Union; second, for being a “functioning anarchy”, to quote John Kenneth Galbraith; and, third, for being a basket case because of its poverty but still uppity enough to deliver moral sermons.

Little wonder that America sent its Seventh Fleet into the Bay of Bengal in 1971 to intimidate India because it was helping the Mukti Bahini (liberation force) of Bangladesh against Yahya Khan’s genocidal army. The American attitude at the time was described as a tilt against India.

What is odd is that the tilt hasn’t yet been fully corrected. There has been remarkable improvement, of course, in India-US relations since the days of John Foster Dulles whose doctrine was “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”. Now the Americans have realised that a seemingly anarchic democracy is more reliable than a “stable” dictatorship. They have also asserted that borders cannot be redrawn in blood, as in Kashmir, for instance, as President Bill Clinton acknowledged during a five-day visit to India followed by a five-hour stopover in Pakistan.

Perhaps the most perceptive about the virtues of Indian democracy was President George W. Bush, when he noted how there wasn’t a single Indian Muslim in Al Qaeda. This was the outcome of Indian democracy providing space for their development in trade and commerce, politics, sports and films while the stifling regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Muslim countries prevented the flowering of talent and individuality and stymied the socially liberating growth of the middle class.

However, if Bush made the mistake of taking his eyes off Afghanistan after the US Army’s initial success in ending Taliban rule, and turning to Iraq, the Obama administration erred in buying the Pakistani argument that if Kashmir was handed on a platter to them, then the US could expect full cooperation in the fight against terrorism in the north-west. Otherwise, the Pakistan Army maintained, its guns would continue to point eastwards to counter the Indian threat.

Although there is now apparently greater awareness in Washington about the complexity of the Kashmir issue - that if the border is redrawn in blood, it will be a boost to Islamic fundamentalism - the US still seems unable or unwilling to make Pakistan abide by its commitment not to allow its soil to be used to launch terrorist attacks.

As a result, Pakistan presents the curious spectacle of being the only country which fosters terrorism while the US continues to be its closest ally.

(31.07.2010-Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs. He can be reached at

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