Pakistan & the US

For months now, the Obama administration has dinned the same message into the Pakistani leadership: get over your obsession with India; the danger to Pakistan comes from within. Each time, the Pakistani response has been the same: No, we can’t. So it was this week, too, as Washington mounted yet another concerted effort to persuade Pakistan to address its internal crises in the course of a three-day “strategic dialogue”. But at the end of the engagement, Pakistan’s litany of India-related grievances and demands remained undiminished: A nuclear deal on a par with the one with India (not met), US Presidential visit to match India’s (partly met), more arms and money (being considered), and of course, the Kashmir issue. In a drive evidently driven by Pakistan’s domineering military-security establishment, represented at the Washington talks by army chief Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi boldly pitched for US mediation into its vexing dispute with India, going as far as to challenge President Obama that “his coming visit to the region is the time to begin to redeem the pledge that he made earlier” of a US role in the Kashmir issue. Although President Obama made no explicit pledge regarding Kashmir, Qureshi appeared to be referring to reports during the Presidential campaign when Obama remarked that “working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis in a serious way” would be one of the “critical tasks”. But since assuming office, Obama had dialed down on the issue. He and any number of high-ranking US officials have reverted to the familiar American position that the issue is bilateral and best resolved in that context, evidently realizing that Kashmir is just a pretext for Pakistan’s military-security establishment to continue its confrontation with India and extend its hold on the country. On Friday, it was the turn of US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. “We will be happy to be of help, if both sides want us to be. But we are not going to unilaterally put ourselves in the position of intermediation on issues in which our presence, our direct involvement, if not desired by both sides, would work against that objective,” Holbrooke said. “We are not going to put ourselves, without invitation, into a position of intermediation in a position—in an issue of such extraordinary and historic sensitivity,” he added.

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