Here’s a choice for would be foreign policy makers: is the solution to the current crisis in Pakistan (a) a comprehensive Pakistan-India accord, with full Iranian and Russian support, to strengthen Pakistan’s civilian government and assert civilian control over Pakistan’s rogue ISI intelligence agency, or (b) stepped-up US military intervention in Afghanistan, unilateral US strikes into Pakistan’s lawless border areas in the northwest, and thuggish American threats aimed at Pakistan’s fledging regime?
If you picked (a), good for you. If you picked (b), well, the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain might offer you a job.
Recent revelations in the New York Times about Pakistan’s ISI and its ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, including reports that the ISI was indeed responsible for the deadly bombing at India’s embassy in Afghanistan, have pushed the Afghan-Pakistan-India nexus to the very front of the news.
But greater US attacks and more US troops in Afghanistan aren’t the answer.
The answer lies in talks between India and Pakistan. India’s Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Yousuf Raza Gilani, the two leaders, held the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in fifteen months this week, and Pakistan’s foreign minister was optimistic, saying that the talks had helped “clear the air” between the two nuclear-armed rivals which have fought three wars, two over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. “A lot of steam had been let out of the pressure cooker. The dish we’re going to cook is going to be for the betterment of the region,” he said.
Trudy Rubin, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, described the comments of Pakistan’s foreign minister on the importance of improving India-Pakistan ties:
Better relations with India “are a top priority,” Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi told guests, emphatically, at a recent private dinner in Villanova, organized by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. Speaking the elegant English of a Cambridge University graduate, he insisted: “There is a large constituency on both sides that wants normalization. There may be hiccups, but we will forge ahead.”
This policy–if Pakistan’s new civilian government really pursues it–is of crucial importance to the United States and the wider world.