Nawaz Sharif ’s three-day trip to the U.S. this week was a mega failure. Nobody expected it to be otherwise.
The two countries share a strange relationship. After 9/11, Pakistan has obtained twenty three billion dollars of American aid, both financial and military. This was meant to fight terrorism, which Pakistan claims to be a victim of. It was used to fight wars with and export terrorism to India. But it was also used to harbor Osama Bin Laden, strengthen the Haqqani Network which kills Americans in Afghanistan, and possibly help the Taliban capture Kunduz recently. The last one has put the Obama administration’s troop withdrawal plans on hold. But Pakistan gets away with cheating the Americans time and again, not because of American stupidity but because America lets them. It cannot afford to let China set the rogue nation’s agenda. It cannot afford to let Pakistan’s expanding nuclear arsenal fall into the hands of an establishment that is even more illegitimate than the current one.
Nawaz Sharif is a pip-squeak. Most democratically elected leaders of Pakistan have been so. The country’s agenda is largely set by the army, and certain other influential institutions (ISI, JuD, D Company etc.) have a say. Democratic institutions are not among them, they remain shams. General Raheel Sharif, the man who actually calls the shots, has stated openly that there exists a political vacuum in the country forcing him to play the role of a ‘soldier-statesman’. When a country sends politically impotent figures such as Nawaz Sharif on foreign trips, one tends to keep their expectations low.
Nawaz Sharif went to the U.S. with a two pronged agenda: defaming India and signing a nuclear deal. This time the army didn’t send the civilian leader to America with the usual begging bowl. This is because Pakistan’s failure on the terror front, or rather their orchestrated failure, is becoming increasingly apparent. The U.S. had already threatened to block all aid in August. A law was passed last year, which prevented the U.S. from giving any aid to Pakistan if it didn’t keep the Haqqani Network in check. Senior officials in the U.S. administration told several media houses off the record that both the nuclear deal and the sale of F16s to Pakistan was completely off the table, before Nawaz Sharif had landed.
The nuclear deal that Pakistan lobbied for, was not signed. In fact the White House had predicted that this would be the outcome much before Nawaz Sharif met Obama; it wasn’t mentioned by either side in any official statement afterwards. The nuclear deal that Pakistan sought was a place in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in exchange for a deceleration in its nuclear arsenal expansion. This would grant them access to material for nuclear weapon development. It is feared that they will get access to such material anyway, from China via underground routes. But the U.S. categorically ruling out the possibility of any such deal perhaps indicates that according to American calculations, when push comes to shove, China won’t give Pakistan squat.
In their attempt to defame India, Pakistan lied to the American administration about India having called off the last round of talks. The talks were in fact called off by Pakistan because they failed to function within certain parameters that they had set themselves as prerequisites. When they brought it up, the Americans reminded them that it wasn’t the right forum and that these issues had to be dealt with using bilateral channels. In an attempt to save face, Nawaz Sharif made a speech at the United States Institute of Peace in which he said that India was engaged in a major arms buildup and that this would compel Pakistan in taking measures to preserve credible deterrence. But this hollow threat in the form of a bold and stern speech, was soon reduced to a joke. Somebody in the audience began shouting ‘Free Balochistan’ slogans. The rampant institutionalized oppression and human rights abuse in Balochistan have been extensively publicized of late. Nawaz’s heckling was the highlight of this trip, for it symbolized what the entire trip had been about: one side lying through their teeth and the other listening quietly and calling the bluffs.
Pakistan is a failed state. It’s a piece of land on which a bunch of entities run amok with different agendas. There is no system, accountability or ethics. Most of these entities hate India. Most of them feed off American aid. It is due to mutual interests such as these that they pull off the ‘we are a country’ scam. Not only Nawaz Sharif ’s trip, but all news related to Pakistan points to such a scam. Let us wait and watch how long it lasts.