Recognizing US Duplicity
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

It is difficult to understand how the US expects the Pakistani state to continue giving it unflinching support on the war against terrorism when it uses every opportunity to challenge its policies -- both external and internal -- and undermine its legitimate right to sustain a credible defense capability. Just when the Pakistani state thought it would now have access to US weapon systems, especially the F-16s, out comes the news that the US Congress is questioning this deal worth $5 billion. The pretext this time is that it needs to know how Pakistan will prevent China from having access to advanced US technology and whether there has been such a diversion already of US technology in Pakistani hands.
A short memory span seems to afflict the US Congress, given that Pakistan has not received advanced US military weapon systems and technology for decades now. In fact, we have suffered severe problems because of the now old weapons systems that we had acquired from the US because of the problem of spares and because some of those systems like the Cobra helicopters were unable to function effectively in our terrain conditions. Additionally, how can we, as a nation, forget the money we lost in a previous F-16 deal when we got no planes and no money back either? Instead, we received wheat and soya beans. Perhaps this negative Congressional response should be an advanced warning to us to recall how we got burnt last time. Our long-term answer to weapons acquisition in order to sustain a credible capability lies in seeking more indigenisation and cooperation with other states, with perhaps European suppliers to act as a short- to medium-term option. Perhaps we need to focus more on other delivery systems as well. Are the F-16s really that vital, given all the other long-term costs? And, given the new US-India strategic partnership, will we get advanced weapons systems in the F-16s or will we get systems that are just a tad less advanced than what India acquires? Let us also remember that buying the F-16s bolsters the US defense industry by bringing in vital funds so it is not as if the US does not benefit from these sales.
Even before the Congress moved against the F-16 deal, the last Rice visit to Pakistan should have been an eye-opener as to the treatment being meted out to the most critical state in the war against terrorism. Although domestic reports of this visit drew attention to the issue of democracy and elections, according to Jane's Intelligence report of July 6, Rice also focused on the nuclear issue. Despite clear evidence of India's proliferation record at the level of the state and in spite of Pakistan's laws on export controls and strong command and control structures (Pakistan is one of the few states, if not the only one, that has made public a detailed picture of its National Command Authority), Rice continued to express so-called US concerns over Pakistan's previous proliferation.
This now becoming absurd and farcical, since one cannot continue to dig up the past ad infinitum. Otherwise the US, France, Norway and Britain would be far guiltier of proliferation to Israel, and if the past was to continue to be dredged then where would post-1945 Germany be in terms of acceptability as a major European player? And while all these states have been guilty of omissions at the level of the state, Pakistan's proliferation issue has never been state-centric -– being focused on one Pakistani individual along side a group comprising Europeans and Asians. So the US needs to end its farce of using the A. Q. Khan issue to deny Pakistan a nuclear deal similar to the one given to India.
At the same time, perhaps Pakistan needs to examine whether it really wants to go for a civilian nuclear deal with the US because in Pakistan's case it will have extremely intrusive measures that may undermine our weapons capability in the long run. We would be far more susceptible to increasing demands and access relating to our weapons capability. In any event, Pakistan needs to take stock of whether we have really been suffering by not gaining access to US civilian nuclear technology? Somehow, the answer would not be in the positive.
According to Jane's, Rice also referred to the Iran nuclear issue with Pakistan, with an expectation that Pakistan would also adopt the Indian position on Iran. That would clearly be against our national interest because we need to continue to support Iran's right to acquire nuclear energy even as we sustain our principled position on the obligation of states to stand by their treaty obligations. Of course the US has no time for principles these days as it flouts one international treaty after another. The US Supreme Court verdict on Guantanamo Bay showed how far the Bush Administration had flouted all norms of justice and international law.
This is not to say that we should not exploit the opportunity we have vis-a-vis the US because of our essential role in the war on terrorism. But our cooperation should come in a more equitable fashion with clearer quid pro quos and greater transparency. The US and its various governmental and associated NGOs should not get unhindered access to the resources and lay of the land. Clearly, our cooperation with the US will always be issue-specific.
Equally important, we need to focus more strongly on our commitment to multilateralism and the UN. In this connection, we should be active on the issue of the new UN Secretary General. It is ironic that at present it is the Muslim World that offers the most competent potential women candidates from Asia. Iran could really catch the US on the back foot by nominating Shireen Ebadi, but we would also be projecting ourselves very favorable by pushing for Dr Maleeha Lodhi's candidature. Win or lose, she would give a positive global projection not only of Pakistan, but also of the capabilities of the Pakistani woman. Whatever one's micro level disagreements, it is in the interest of the Pakistani woman to support Dr Lodhi who lacks nothing in competence and professional capabilities. Her candidature in itself would be good for Pakistan.
Of course, the US is playing a devious game here also because it wants to have a Polish candidate for the secretary-general's position, so it is letting the Asians fight it out initially. But in the face of a female candidature, it would be hard pressed to press ahead with its covert intent. As for the Indian candidate, the UN can certainly do without yet another UN bureaucrat as secretary-general. Pakistan has always played an active role in international forums, especially the UN, and in the present global milieu, bolstering the role of multilateralism is essential for it. And what better way to project the Muslim World favorably than by pushing for a female candidate. Every rapidly developing state has its share of problems but we need to rid ourselves of our psychological confidence deficit.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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