Pakistan, a Troubled Ally

During Musharraf’s now frequent visits to the United States, it has become customary for an editorial or op-ed to appear in a leading newspaper laying out the cards as they are. Yesterday’s New York Times carries such an article, titled Pakistan, a Troubled Ally.

The article cites Pakistan’s half-hearted support on the al Qaeda/Taliban front, continued support of violence against Indians in Kashmir and nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, going on to note that the US may need to review its relationship with Musharraf if this recalcitrance continues.

Such articles seem part of the Bush administration’s carrot-and-stick strategy to keep Musharraf on his toes. Unfortunately this strategy does not seem to be working all that well. Before leaving for the US Musharraf makes it a point to announce the arrest of some jehadis, this time 17 madrassa students from Indonesia and Malaysia, and prove his continued usefulness as an ally. This causes the Bush administration to issue a statement that Musharraf is a stalwart ally in the war against terror.

While this charade has its usefulness, it must not be a substitute for real strategy. The US must link its long-term aid programme to Pakistan’s performance set against a time-table.