It’s the terrorism, stupid; not India: US message to Pak
24 Apr 2009, 0424 hrs IST, Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN
WASHINGTON: The United States will institute benchmarks that Pakistan will have to meet, including scaling down its confrontational posture against India, if Islamabad is to earn the massive foreign aid Washington and its partners are lining up, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated on Thursday.
The benchmarks will include moving troops from its border with India to its insurgency stricken areas to fight its homegrown terrorism problem, Clinton suggested, following up on the broad US prescription and advice to Pakistan that its grave domestic situation, and not India, constituted the biggest danger to its existence.
Clinton provided the assurances about benchmarks at the urging of some lawmakers, but said she would prefer they remain an executive decision rather than legislative so that the administration would not be paralyzed. Some of the benchmarks would be classified, but the administration would share them with Congress.
“You know, on a simple measure, is the Pakistani military still amassing hundreds of thousands of troops on the Indian border, or have they begun to move those toward these insurgent areas?” Clinton explained at a Congressional hearing, citing the example of one such benchmark. “What kind of kinetic action are they taking? How much? Is there increasing up-tempo or not? Is it sporadic, so they start in and then they move back?”
“I agree with you completely that we need the internal benchmarks,” she told an anxious lawmaker, adding the approach would be across the government. “The intelligence community will have certain measurements; the Defense Department will; we (the State Department) will look as well.”
The Pakistani government — and some of its supporters like Senator John Kerry — has opposed legislative benchmarks, especially those which condition US aid to Pakistan ending its sponsorship of terrorism against India, saying they are humiliating. But lawmakers on the House side are against giving Pakistan a free ride given what they say is its history of double-dealing.
“I’ve been around this place 40 years. My experience with Pakistan during all that time is that it has always been Pakistan, which means it’s a country of dealmakers, but they don’t keep the deals,” said Congressman David Obey. “I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the existing Pakistani government to do one blessed thing.”
Other members also complained about Pakistan’s double-dealing – paying lip service to fighting terrorism while cutting deals with extremists. “How do we succeed in Pakistan if the Pakistanis themselves are either unwilling or incapable of making the tough choices and taking the tough action needed to confront the insurgency?” asked one Congressman.
Following up on President Obama’s assurance that there will be no blank checks for Pakistan, Secretary Clinton also re-iterated what has become a virtual mantra in Washington in recent weeks: Repeated advice to Pakistan that it is not India, but Islamabad’s own home-grown terrorism that posed an existential threat to it.
In an indication that US aid to Pakistan will be contingent on its India policy, even if it is not incorporated into legislation, Clinton said US officials have been “spending countless hours in really painful, specific conversations,” to convince Pakistan of the changed situation. Pakistan was slow to understand this, she suggested.
“Changing paradigms and mindsets is not easy,” Clinton told anxious lawmakers, adding, “I want to underscore the feeling we get, which is that if you have been locked in a mortal contest with someone you think is your principal — in fact, only — real enemy, and all of a sudden circumstances change, it just takes some time.”
Similar policy prescriptions and sentiments (It’s not India, it’s home-grown extremists) were expressed at a Harvard lecture earlier this week by General David Petraeus, chief of the US Central Command with oversight of Pakistan and the middle-east, indicating that US interlocutors are all reading from the same page.
“The existential threat” facing Pakistan “is internal extremists and not India,” Petraeus said in the speech at the Kennedy School of Government, adding such an idea was “intellectually dislocating” for the institutions of Pakistan fostered on decades of projecting confrontation against India.
Over at the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Pakistan crisis was taking a lot of President Obama’s time. Defense Secretary Robert Gates too chipped in, asking Islamabad to recognize the danger and take action.
On her part, Clinton told lawmakers there is a growing understanding of the changed circumstances within the Pakistani leadership.
“Now, there are no promises. They have to do it (act against extremists),” she warned.