Change should not be another word for more of the same
Jim Hoagland’s piece on how the US should transform its Pakistan policy gets it exactly, precisely right.
And it is the case with the campaign promises of John McCain and Barack Obama to unleash ever-larger flows of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Pakistan as a way of bringing stability there and to win the global war on terrorism. They, too, would drop cash from helicopters to calm fears.
That same approach to Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf failed the Bush presidency, and it will fail new leaders in Washington and Islamabad as well. What is needed is a daring reformulation of U.S. policy toward South Asia.
Pakistan has created the world’s toughest foreign policy challenge. Its military and civilian governments have for decades profited from stirring tribal warfare in Afghanistan, then been too frightened of or complicit with their own fundamentalists to push for significant social change at home.
But Qureshi was persuasive when he outlined his determination to improve relations with India. His recent trips there convince him that the two nations must put aside hostility and help make each other rich: “We must capitalize on this opportunity.”
India’s growing economic power will leave its neighbor in the dust unless Pakistan becomes part of that prosperity. Pakistan’s future will be determined by its relations with India, not by increased U.S. aid or maintaining its support for tribal war in Afghanistan.
Recognizing and acting on that Indo-Pak reality — rather than perpetuating the illusion that the United States controls Pakistan’s fate — are the urgent tasks for new governments in Washington and Islamabad. [WP]
Clearly, the task is daunting because US policy must change Pakistani mindsets and attitudes. [See a review of Farzana Versey’s book at Pragmatic Euphony.] It certainly is a whole lot harder than dropping cash from helicopters. Moreover, as Joshua Foust writes, the dream of setting Pashtun tribes against each other is removed from reality, as it ignores the Islamist transformation of Pashtun society over the last three decades.
Change must come from within Pakistan. It is in the United States’ interests to make it happen. For India’s part, instead of focusing on peripheral, irrelevant projects like military lines on glaciers or bus services in Kashmir, a real peace process would strategically engage the sources of economic power across the border.