A Horrible Example

I have just been reading Syeda Abida Hussain’s book Power Failure. On page 123 she recalls the incident in which Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in an address in the Governor House Punjab to the visiting US delegation explains why Pakistan a peace loving country was forced to acquire nuclear weapons. His rationale was simple Pakistan needed these weapons to deter India from attacking it. In his reply Dr. Henry Kissinger told Mr. Bhutto in a very gruff manner that in that case his country should be ready to become a ‘horrible example.’ Years later when Abida Hussain would visit Kissinger as the ambassador of her country to the United States, the American statesman would tell her that it was not a personal attack on Bhutto. During her tenure as the Ambassador, Abida Hussain would be upbraided for country’s shenanigans of following a nuclear path and for sponsoring terrorists. A ‘horrible example’ has since become part of our national folklore.

The case of Mr. Nawaz Sharif being humiliated by President Clinton during the famous 4th of July 1999 meeting that the Pakistani Prime Minister had himself sought to come out of the Kargil crisis has been recorded in excruciating detail by Clinton aide Bruce Reidel in a monograph that is available on line. The verbal onslaught of Clinton was so relentless that a visibly harassed Sharif had to promise to withdraw his forces behind the Line of Control (LOC) and observe its sanctity as Mr. Vajpayee, the Indian premier waited with bated breath for the response, while holding on the telephone line.

Another infamous intimidation that has been recorded in a number of books and articles is the Stone Age threat hurled by Richard Armitage after 9/11 at the visiting DG ISI. Armitage purportedly told General Mehmood that the US could bomb his country into Stone Age if the rulers did not comply with the US demands. Mahmood faithfully transmitted the gist of his meeting with Armitage to General Musharraf. It had the necessary effect on the military strongman. So that once General Colin Powell, the US secretary of state called and asked General Musharraf if he was ‘with them or against them,’ the latter had no hesitation in saying that he was with them and that he was accepting all seven demands that the US had sent for consideration. Despite all the sacrifices that Pakistan has made during the so-called War against Terror in terms of human lives, properties destroyed and revenues lost, the recurring mantra from the US has been to ‘do more.’

US has not been alone in threatening or arm twisting Pakistan. On 1 May 1960, the Soviet Union downed a U2 High altitude surveillance plane that had flown out of the Pakistani air base of Peshawar and had the CIA pilot Francis Gary Power paraded before the press. After having presented credible proof of Pakistani involvement the Secretary General of the Soviet Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev told the Pakistani ambassador that next time there was a US plane flying out of Pakistan to spy upon the Soviet Union, Peshawar would be struck by nuclear missiles. It is said that Peshawar was from that day onward encircled in red in Soviet operation rooms. Pakistan was sufficiently subdued not to renew the contract of the US spy base in Badaber.

I am sure there are many other unrecorded incidents of threats, innuendos and arms twisting by superpowers such as the US to brow beat Pakistan to obtain one sided concessions at the expense of the larger national interests. I’m not sure if our diplomats or statesmen are taught how to handle such high pressure situations and how not to blink first. Of course negotiating from a position of weakness is always difficult but abject surrender is even worse. There are always some bargaining chips and even the most trivial of these can provide sufficient leverage to beat an honorable retreat, in order to live and fight another day. Perpetually coming out of a tricky situation is nonetheless no solution. It can lead to fatigue and weakening of the defenses. The policy makers and security managers must invest in the well being of the country in the way in a manner that we are not taken lightly and not kicked around by everybody. We must emerge as a strong nation in the times to come, so that we are taken seriously by other nations.



One Comment on “A Horrible Example”

  1. Shams_Zaman says:

    An extremely well written and thought provoking article for our policymakers. Wish someone sitting up there could read it and take appropriate course of action in future.

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