The blame game

Not my fault

Pakistan faces severe threats and challenges and we have suffered more than anyone in the world. This we are reminded of often. This week we have also been reminded of the second part of our national identity which is that we are not responsible for any of our problems. We are only the helpless victims.

Yesterday PM’s Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz accused former Ambassador Husain Haqqani of being responsible for failure of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts. This is not the first time that a government official has given this excuse as Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has also blamed Husain Haqqani for his own failure to secure F-16s.

This may be a national emergency. If the entire diplomatic corps including even Gen. Raheel’s ceremonious efforts can be completely undone by a single person sitting in a think tank, what hope have we of ever overcoming our troubles? Is all of Pakistan unable to overcome one man?

Today we are also reminded that Pakistan has been abandoned by the whole world to face terrorists on our own. This was declared by no less than Army spokesman DG-ISPR Gen Asim Bajwa. However, this statement left many scratching their heads in confusion. Didn’t the US give Pakistan Army billions? Didn’t the US kill TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, capture TTP commander Latifullah Mehsud and hand him over to Pakistan Army? Isn’t US still funding Pakistan Army?

It is true that Pakistan is facing a declining relationship with historic allies including the US. However facts are facts and it is simply too much to say that we have been ‘abandoned’ yet. It is also unrealistic to blame a scholar for all of our problems. So why are we facing such a difficult time, and if we are not exactly ‘abandoned’, why are we becoming more isolated? Ironically, the answer may have been given by Husain Haqqani himself:

“Pakistan’s difficulties in the US were the result of years of supporting ‘jihadis’ and making excuses that are having less and less effect on Americans. Moreover, Pakistan’s dependence on US aid made it susceptible to changes in the US national mood and attitude,” elaborated Haqqani in the statement released.

Our top leaders, especially those at the level of Minister and General, need to give an honest assessment of our situation and take responsibility for putting the nation back on the right path. Blaming others and playing helpless victim will fix nothing. We need real leadership that is willing to speak the truth and take necessary action.

Unsensational

From the saga of leaked London Police documents to the revival of the Tanveer Zamani circus, this week we have once again seen sensational rumours spreading like wildfire. Unfortunately, less sensational but far more important stories are all but missing from the discussion.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s advisers pushed for targeted actions including economic sanctions against Pakistan military officers who the US believed were supporting al Qaeda terrorists.

“Assuming we have adequate intelligence, we can go after bank accounts, travel and other reachable assets of individual Pakistani officers, raising the stakes for those supporting the militants without creating an inordinate backlash,” he wrote.

“Thanks, Sandy. This is very helpful,” Clinton replied. Through a spokesman, Berger declined comment on Wednesday.

While the US State Department believes Pakistan military officers have supported terrorists, they do not seem to have the same concerns about Indian support for terrorism inside Pakistan despite Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel telling parliament that he presented the evidence during his trip to Washington last year. Actually, the US denies that Pakistan has presented any evidence.

“I am not aware of any such delivery,” said US State Department spokesman John Kirby when asked at a news briefing if Pakistan had shared those proofs with the United States.

These stories should be just as sensational, if not more than those that have dominated media this week, however they do not satisfy our desire to vilify the hapless politicians. Because of this, they are not only considered un-sensational, they are barely considered news.

Imaginary Friends

President Obama’s recent trip to Delhi left little doubt that after decades of viewing Pakistan as its ‘most favoured ally’, America is now pivoting towards India. Not willing to be left out in the cold, Pakistan is seeking to enhance strategic ties with old friends like China as well as new ones like Russia. This realignment is an obvious snub to America who has historically had strained ties with China and Russia, as well as an opportunity to expand military and economic ties outside of the US. However, this realignment may be little more than the latest delusion cooked up by the Foreign Office.

Pakistan-Russian relations have always been cool, and despite media reports of a growing bond between the two, facts suggest that little has changed. Just recently, Pakistan executed a Russian citizen over the objections of Russian authorities. Then, in a manner befitting a spy thriller, Russian agents carried out an operation to snatch the corpse from Pakistan.

Pakistan-China relations have been warmer, but there has always been a great amount of evidence that this was little more than show, and that behind the scenes the actual relations are much more tense than is publicly admitted. The difference between fantasy and reality has been demonstrated once again as China has backed India’s Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the United Nations (UN). The CCIT is widely seen by Pakistani analysts as targeting alleged support for jihadi groups in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s oldest ally, the United States, is cutting aid to Pakistan again, this time by 10 per cent. We will continue to look to other countries to make up the military and economic support, but the reality is you can never get something for nothing. Until we are willing to face the reality of terrorism and extremism in our borders, we may wake up to find that our ‘friends’ existed only in our imagination.

Money Talks: Why India is getting closer to US while Pakistan is not

Obama and Modi

A Tweet by Jang Group correspondent Murtaza Ali Shah caught my attention this morning.

Unfortunately, the link clicked through to an article by Ansar Abbasi reporting the worn out claim that Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a welfare organisation and that anyone who says otherwise is parroting Indian propaganda. Abbasi gained this information from “highly placed sources” with inside access to what was communicated to US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit. The fact of the matter is that anyone with eyes and ears can see and hear what kind of “charity” Hafiz Saeed and his JuD have been operating – No propaganda necessary. So unless JuD itself is being sponsored by RAW, Abbasi’s report is not only baseless, it’s comedic. But what this has to do with US and India and business deals? That is what I was interested in. If Murtaza’s link would not provide the information, though, my interest was piqued enough that I would have to look for it myself.

It didn’t take me long to find a better fitting link for Murtaza’s Tweet, a recent article from Forbes about President Obama’s upcoming trip to India that reports that the US president will be joined by a cadre of American CEOs. Now this is interesting.

CEOs from top U.S. companies are joining the President on his trip this weekend to the world’s biggest democracy.

When President Obama flies off to India this weekend for a historic second trip to the newly-arrived economic giant, he’ll have a blue-chip roster of CEOs in tow.

The delegation of business chiefs so far includes Ajay Banga of Mastercard MA 0.01% , Dave Cote of Honeywell HON 3.13% , Bob Iger of Disney DIS -0.45% , Indra Nooyi of Pepsi PEP -0.37% , Arne Sorenson of Marriott MAR 0.04% , and Vivek Ranadive of Tibco TIBX , Fortune has learned.

Officially, Obama is traveling to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations as the guest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (the President even scrambled scheduling of his State of the Union address to accommodate his attendance). But the presence of the corporate captains the White House hustled to recruit for the mission indicates the economic stakes. Warming diplomatic ties between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest are encouraging American companies seeking expanded access to India’s $2 trillion economy.

Modi is pushing to make his country friendlier to foreign investment with new incentives and regulatory reforms. He unveiled a “Make in India” campaign in September aimed at promoting the country as a manufacturing haven. And the US and India are chasing a five-fold increase in bilateral trade, to $500 billion, by 2020.

This is eye-popping, and should serve as a wake up call to our national strategists and policy makers in Islamabad.

India has never been America’s close ally. Actually, quite the opposite has been true. This doesn’t mean that the Indians haven’t tried to warm relations with the US, just that their attempts have usually received a cool response as the Americans have treated India with a healthy suspicion since their non-alignment during the Cold War. Washington saw Indians as always looking out for themselves, and therefore untrustworthy. This is why India’s attempts to poison relations between Pakistan and the US have never been successful – their machinations were always too obvious. Now, however, India has discovered the way to America’s heart, and it’s not through “national security”, it’s through “national exchequer”.

Here is the one area where American can accept that the Indians are looking out for themselves. In business, everyone is looking out for themselves. But in business, even though everyone understands that they are looking out for themselves, they are also looking to work together to improve their returns. In business, US and India can work closely together without any pretense of brotherly affection or timeless bonds. The only “bonds” they will be discussing will be the financial kind.

Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to base its relations with the US on issues of national security. We are a “strategically important nation” because of our geolocation in a dangerous part of the world. America needs to work with us because we are the front line in the war on terrorism. Problem is, this is the same rationale we have been using since over 50 years, and the Americans have started asking when they’re going to see returns on their investment. As the state dithers on questions about jihadi groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa, our relationship looks less and less like one of mutual benefit and more and more like extortion. As a sovereign nation, we have the right to decide whether or not certain groups are actually supporting our national security objectives, but other countries also have the right to decide that they don’t support those objectives and to pull out of their investments.

The one area where everyone has the same interest is in business. We want to make money. They want to make money. This is the one area that all nations have in common. It is why historical enemies like India and America can become allies. It is even why nations like China and America can overcome all odds of being enemies and become allies – or at least develop an understanding that precludes military conflict.

Our national security strategy has failed us. We are not only not safer, we are becoming less and less secure almost daily. It’s time to re-think a national security strategy that prioritizes military strength and begin to develop one that prioritizes economic strength. American is not as large as India or China, but it far outpaces them in military strength because it first built its economic strength. Moreover, it has neutralized those countries who might challenge its hegemony by placing economic interests in the way. This is a proven model of success, and one that we should be following.