Robert Gates’ Visit to Pakistan

By Bilal Qureshi

During his Pakistan visit, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote an article for an English daily in which he basically stressed the need to work together. On the other hand, while in India, Mr. Gates implied that had India not acted sensibly (I am paraphrasing) after the Mumbai attacked, there was a real chance of war breaking out between Pakistan and India. Now, from my reading, Mr. Gates is giving the impression that terrorists responsible for Mumbai were somehow linked to either Pakistan, or some branches of governments in Pakistan. And second, it is India who is acting maturely; otherwise, India would have been right to attack Pakistan to seek revenge. 

Obviously, everyone in Pakistan strongly disagrees with Mr. Gates.

Without getting into the details of foreign policy challenges and competing interests separating Islamabad and Washington, I’d say that if Americans are really interested in winning ‘hearts and minds of  Pakistanis’, than they should refrain from publically commenting about issues that are music to the ears of anti American elements in Pakistan. In fact, I am willing to go one step further – if Americans are interested in improving relations with Islamabad, they must stop high profile visits to Islamabad because in the end, instead of improving ties, these visits increase the ‘trust deficit’ between Islamabad and Washington.

Personally, it is hard for me to understand the reason behind Mr. Gates’s visit to Pakistan? What was Mr. Gates trying to accomplish that Mike Mullen, General David Howell Petraeus, Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke, to Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton failed to achieve? Given Pakistan’s overall situation, I think it is best to let America’s ambassador in Pakistan, Anne Woods Patterson to manage this tumultuous relationship. And, if it becomes absolutely critical to meet face to face (video teleconference could be equally beneficial) meet with Pakistan’s leadership, meet them in Washington, but please stop going to Pakistan and wait for the situation to get better. Otherwise, Washington is only alienating an important ally by over visiting Islamabad.

Coming back to what Mr. Gates had said in India, personally, I think it was a mistake to support India’s position while in India and praise Pakistan while in Pakistan. It can’t go on like this. Either Mr. Gates should take a position and stick to it, or he should refrain from publically commenting on issues that increase the mistrust between Islamabad and Washington. And, let’s be honest about it. Islamabad and Washington don’t trust each other.

Policy makers in Washington should understand the on-going struggle in Pakistan between the forces of darkness and the civil society that is fighting to keep hope alive. And, for us, the best way to support our friends in Islamabad is to not give more ammo to our common enemy. As a friend, I am suggesting that we should not complicate things for our friends in Islamabad and if it means we should avoid visiting Islamabad, fine. From my recent 10 months in Pakistan, I have noticed that the best way to strengthen the relationship with Islamabad is to keep a low profile and let Islamabad manage their challenges. Unfortunately, as it is the government in Islamabad is week and Mr. Zardari is labeled as too friendly towards Washington and judiciary, army, civil establishment, right wing political and religious parties are already trying to get Zardari and bring down the current government in Islamabad. At the very least, Washington should not join this effort because of its naiveté.

Remember, when Washington asks for ‘do more’, it actually is doing more for those who are spreading anti American hate and propaganda in the country. Therefore, let us do more by saying and visiting less.

“To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual” Oscar Wilde


Filed under Al Qaeda, Imperialism, India, Pakistan, USA, War On Terror

7 responses to “Robert Gates’ Visit to Pakistan

  1. Mustafa Shaban

    If the Americans simply treat us like partners rather than clients than I am sure the anti americanism in Pakistan will die down.

  2. neel123

    It is a zero sum game.

    An America that is friendly with India, will always be viewed with suspicion in Pakistan, and the same is true in Indian context also.

    As a result of over three decades of bad relations, Indians also do not trust the Americans, and is simply trying to build a relationship on the basis of common interests, nothing more.

    Gates or no Gates, Pakistan can not have trust and friendship with the US, that has a growing partnership with India.

  3. omar

    Bilal, are you implying that the mumbai attackers did NOT come from Pakistan?
    Or are you just saying the ISI had nothing to do with it, so dont blame us for all the jihadis we trained and have now cut loose?

  4. prasun

    Let Pakistan see India as its friend and India see Pakistan as its friend. Let them write their history together in one book. Let the dead be gone to their peaceful abodes and be forgotten now. Let outside ideologies play no role in the indian-pakistani context. Let outsiders not be consulted. Even a religion from outside will prove to be damaging to our identity and future. Islam, christianity, bahaism etc. may make tall-wonderful or frighteningly-powerful claims but are detrimental to us. Arabs, chinese, US americans, european are all our exploiters right now. For them Pakistan is a rogue state to be misused for mischief and India a foolish weak state to be ridiculed.

    Pakistan must gather the self-respect necessary for resisting arabs, China, USA and europeans. None of the 4 wish us well. Do the constitutions of India and Pakistan forbid us working together?

  5. Midfield Dynaamo

    In military terminology when a small force is employed restrict the freedom of movement of a large force it is known as fixation. This is what Pakistan does to India, probably inadvertantly, but to the advantage of some.

  6. Our American friends expect good reaction in Pakistan but forget that what they say in Delhi is dislike by every Pakistan. For the balance relationship, US should play a positive role instead of issuing warning and intensifying the already inflame relationship of Pakistan.

  7. rex minor

    I sometime wonder, how India and Pakistan is going to overcome their colonial past. Neither in India nor in Pakistan there is an awareness that the Brits colonised their people and indoctrinated them to hate each other . The Brits destroyed the multiculture of these nations, introduced the English medium in Schools and Universities, regarded non English speaking citizens as illetrates, and uneducated. Even today every intellectual is proud of going over to English Universities for education and knowledge.
    Most of the citizens travel to English speaking countries such as Britain, Canada,the United States and even the Bush land Australia, simply to learn in their Institutions. Even the Indian lauriet of the Noble Prize was studying in the USA. A country of a billion people do not have centres for research? What is happening to the billions dollars of worth gold which the clever economic wizard is collecting. Saving for the future.
    What part the media is playing in the Indian and Pakistan development? Whenever I watch a Whitehouse Press Conference, a smart Indian reporter usually has a question to the President about Pakistan. I have not noticed a reporter from the Pakistan media. In the BBC round the table a Pakistani reporter of the Jang News paper talks a lot about the Taliban and Afghanistan but admits that he does not understand the Pashto language and the culture of Afghan people. He is always obsessed with what India is doing and ofcourse the same old music about Kashmir?
    Neither of the Nations have reformed their military to make them a national army and in the modern conflict would be willing to surrender against the stronger force as per the Brits. doctrine . Pakistan army surrender against the Indian Army and Indian Army surrender against the Chinese Army. I suspect that for the American Army it would be a walkover to take over Pakistan or India.
    . When are they going to reform their education system, so that thecitizens can qualify adequately from their National Institution?
    – Mr Gates and the like are no special people, just simple an ordinary individual who was picked up by George W to become the secretary of defence. Why give publicity to what he said in India or Pakistan. He is a Gringo and has less knowledge and intelligence that most of the YLH commentators. We say here “stoss” to what Mr Gates said recently in France, India and Pakistan.
    Why are you people so emotional about every petty thing.
    Why is it not possible to overcome the differences of religion, culture, ethnic background etc. ? Why Pakistan Army is drumming about Kashmir? The Kashmiris are responsible for their fate and the Palistinians are responsible for their fate. These are serious questions and need to be addressed and openly discussed. The Brits planned it and the Indian and Pakistan leaders were fools to trust them. When are the new generation of leaders going to accept it and overcome. If India is a declared enemy of Pakistan or vice a versa then what is holding them to use their atomic arsenal to resolve their differences. A’h it means self destruction, then why do’nt they grow up and resolve calmly their differences. Let us not blame the individuals who are fighting for their independence from India and Pakistan!