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A friend of/in Pakistan?

Discussion in 'International Relations' started by Bang Galore, Oct 28, 2010.

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  1. Bang Galore

    Bang Galore Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Avirook Sen

    Within a few hours of the announcement by the White House, that US President Barack Obama would not visit Pakistan during his India trip, I got a trash-worthy chain mail. Since I am in polite company, it’s best that I translate the original sender’s name. He called himself ‘homosexual’ (beginning with a ‘g’). He addressed the mail to ‘nymphomaniac’ (beginning with a ‘t’). I did not delete this mail because it was clearly from Pakistan and in Urdu. I was curious. I asked a friend to translate. Apparently, ‘g’ was accusing ‘t’ of stooping to do it with a black man.

    I think the provocation for the mail was the super-quick statement from the White House. A delegation of Pakistani officials had met Obama on October 20, they might have said something about the meeting afterwards, perhaps speculated that Obama might do a night-halt in Islamabad. But the press office drew first. No visit now. We’re looking at 2011. After that, there could only be statements from the Pakistani side, welcoming Obama in advance. ‘G’ got very angry.

    Should Obama have visited Pakistan? He is a sensible man. Which is why he would never undertake a trip that makes no sense. Obama is likely to come to India after just having lost ground in a mid-term election on November 2. At a time when almost every tenth American doesn’t have a job, does it make sense to focus on a place that creates jobs in a wide range of sectors, or focus on a place that mainly boosts the undertaking industry?

    Boeing wants to sell aircraft to India’s low-cost airlines, feeling this will create jobs all over the US. Harley Davidson wants an assembly plant. Caterpillar wants to hawk its marine engines. And the US defence industry is always on the lookout for a deal or two.

    On a recent visit to Pakistan, a Hindustan Times writer bought government surveys from a bookshop and found that there was a trend of companies trying to exit the stock market rather than entering it. In 1995, Pakistan had 13 manufacturing firms that had a paid-up capital of over Rs500 million, in 2009 there were just two left. In 1990, there were 58 manufacturers in the Rs50-500 million range. Four survived to see 2009. But the bookshop owner’s surprise that someone was buying these dour volumes was far more illuminating: “No one in Pakistan reads about the economy anymore.â€

    For the sensible Mr Obama, the only job on offer in Pakistan is a clean-up job. At the moment, he thinks it can wait. At the heart of this isn’t procrastination but the all-American question: “Can we trust Pakistan?â€

    A passage in Bob Woodward’s latest book, Obama’s Wars, is particularly illuminating. Bruce Riedel, the CIA veteran who Obama personally called in to write what’s known as the ‘Riedel review’ on Af-Pak, was speaking to top strategists in the Obama administration in March 2009. He and Admiral Mike Mullen had a disagreement over Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, specifically the army’s hand in it. Mullen had worked closely with General Ashfaq Kayani, reports said they had a ‘bond’.

    Riedel, however, was scathing. Woodward reports he told the gathering that Kayani was “either not in control of his organisation or he is not telling the truth.†And then, addressing Mullen directly, Riedel said: “Kayani falls into the second category — liar.†Even Mullen’s military mate, Admiral Dennis Blair, agreed. They were talking about a man who has just moved to number seven on the New Statesman’s list of ‘50 people who matter’. Five behind Obama at two, but well ahead of Osama at 21.

    So the president won’t go to Pakistan till he works out who to talk to there. Washington knows the civilian government is ineffectual; the business community is running scared; and the generals aren’t trustworthy. What’s the point of a visit?

    One aspect is probably being ignored, however. During his campaign in 2008, President Obama had slipped in the information that he had visited Pakistan as a college student in 1981. Scrupulous journalists then found out that he had a friend there, who he had stayed with. Will the president have a friend in Pakistan when he visits in 2011?


    A friend of/in Pakistan? – The Express Tribune
     
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