The Mother in Law Comes Calling

The US is on a diplomatic surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It wants to revive its flagging military campaign in Afghanistan by pressuring Pakistan to toe their line. Both US and Afghan officials accuse Islamabad of supporting insurgent groups in Afghanistan, a charge the Pakistani government denies. The United States wants Pakistan to launch a military offensive against militants in the North Waziristan. Clinton arrived in Pakistan after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Influenced no doubt by a litany of assorted complaints, she read the riot act to the leadership. She imperiously reiterated the American demands: Demolish Taliban sanctuaries in FATA, encourage Taliban to enter into peace talks in Afghanistan and withdraw support from the Haqqanis. The press photo of her collective session with the Pakistani leadership is a picture of raw machtpolitk. With her high powered delegation glaring darkly, she is seen hectoring a polite and deferential prime minister, flanked by his earnest young foreign minister, a clearly troubled finance minister and positively bored Army and Intelligence chiefs.

The next day Hilary Clinton held a separate session with her counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar. Dubbed HRK in India, Khar best known for her expensive clothes and jewelry, has been exposed to Clinton before. In July, she had met Clinton on the sidelines of the ASEAN Conference in Indonesia. In September, she stood in for the PM at the UN session and got an exclusive three and a half hours treatment from Clinton, who upbraided her for Pakistan’s ‘dismal’ counter-terrorism record. To her credit Khar was able to deftly handle Clinton in the joint press conference. Clinton admitted that militant sanctuaries existed on both sides of the borders and agreed with Gen Kayani’s contention that Pakistan was no Afghanistan and Iraq.

The relatively mild departing kick indicates that the oxygen tube is not being wrenched out just for now. The pressure will steadily keep mounting on Pakistan. There will be no let up. Pakistan would remain embroiled in an open ended counter insurgency campaign. Drones will keep pounding targets in the tribal areas. The insurgents would retaliate in the cities. More innocent people will be killed. What remains of the measly aid will be further reduced. Sanctions may be imposed on flimsy excuses like the Iran pipeline project. Economic conditions would continue to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. Internal situation would be wracked by instability. The ground realities are not encouraging. The high command remains trapped in the strange dilemma of helplessness and a feeling of being foredoomed. It lacks the capability to influence the Taliban in letting the Americans a face saving exit. It draws strength from the fact that Americans do not have the capacity to extend the war into Pakistani territory by landing boots on ground. So they have to tolerate an unpleasant mother in law and go on with business of making the best of what life has to offer. What they need is the patience and resilience of an oriental daughter in law.

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