Pakistan-U.S. Dialogue Leaves Concerns over Critical Issues
    2010-10-23 19:56:34     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang Xu

The third round of Pakistan-U.S. strategic dialogues that aimed at reducing the bilateral trust deficit concluded in Washington on Friday with hopes and pledges but left concerns over various unresolved issues, as Pakistan continues to suffer heavily for being the top ally in the war against terror, Pakistani analysts say.

The dialogues finalized working groups in 13 key areas as laid down in the second round of talks held in Islamabad in July, which mainly focused on civilian issues as energy, education, healthcare, water, improving electricity situation and others. The dialogues were first held in March in Washington DC this year.

"They (Pakistani delegation) should have emphasized a few important things such as improving economy and provision of civilian nuclear energy," defense and security analysts Major General (retired) Jamshed Ayaz told Xinhua in an interview on Saturday.

"Pakistan should ask for small nuclear reactors with international safeguards that can resolve many economic issues related to power shortage," General Jamshed added.

"Putting all 13 issues on table at a time was a blunder," said former Pakistani foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed while emphasizing that "only 3 to 4 issues should have been pursued."

While other local analysts perceive more of the stick rather than carrot in the continuing U.S. diplomacy of carrot and stick towards Pakistan. However, some believe that the old U.S. mantra of "do more" in the war against terror must have come up during the military part of the dialogue. But the good thing was that it did not surface in public, which could have been counterproductive further fueling the rising anti-American sentiments.

The U.S. has pledged an additional 2 billion dollar military aid to Pakistan which is to be given during 2012-2016.

However, a leading American paper claimed that U.S. has threatened to cut military aid, if Pakistan does not effectively act against al-Qaeda and Taliban in its northwest tribal areas.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who led the delegation stressed to avoid drawing quick conclusions based on newspaper speculations as the dialogue is a continuing process. " We began the process and we can't expect results in two to three meetings," Qureshi emphasized.

"We've to keep on talking with the U.S.," said General Jamshed, a former Pakistani defense ministry official.

The United States has declared Pakistan as its top ally in its war-on-terror but seems to have deflected Pakistani concerns. Qureshi insisted that the U.S. should mediate the resolution of Kashmir issue. However, the U.S. State Department had flatly refused to intervene and recommend both countries to resolve it amicably.

President Barack Obama had earlier promised to resolve Kashmir dispute. General Jamshed recalled, "They should dwell on it."

"It was best opportunity to decide and evaluate as to what we are doing and what we are getting in return," Shamshad Ahmed said.

"It's a deal of loss," commented eminent economist Dr. Shahid Hasan, adding that Pakistan's vital interests are jeopardized.

Pakistan is suffering a 13.5 billion dollar loss annually and has so far inflicted with 50 billion dollar losses in the military operations. If the war against terror continues, Pakistan's losses would be drastic, Dr. Hasan observed.

"Even if we get 100 percent of all that the U.S. has promised, it wouldn't cover all incurred losses."

Whereas defense analyst Brigadier (retired) Shaukat Qadir observed, "U.S. does promise many things but it is delivered drop by drop."

However, the U.S. policy toward Pakistan would be determined after Nov. 2 mid-term Congress elections and lobbying aimed at cutting government's spending amid the weakening U.S. economy. But the Kerry-Lugar Bill package would remain unaffected as it has already been passed.

"Indian lobby is very much against military aid given to Pakistan. It is asking for safeguards," the New York based Amnesty International official and columnist Dr. Rafia Zakaria told a local Urdu television.

Since Republicans blame Pakistan for their shortcomings in Afghanistan, "there is possibility that conditions would be attached to the aid to Pakistan."

On the other hand, recent reports suggest that Obama administration is using Pakistan for its dirty work, which puts Obama in hot waters within his democrat constituents.

Analysts infer that President Obama who is slipping down on popularity graph means that U.S. government needs to streamline its policy and the onus might fall on its policy toward Pakistan.

It's time for Pakistan to do something concrete rather than thinking about it to safeguard its own vital interests, in a short term and a long term as well, analysts suggest.


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