Friday, October 22, 2010

This looks like a long-haul this time....

Pakistani have always been complaining that USA only uses them in the hour of need and abandons them. Not any more, or so it looks like. They now plan to give security-related aid, irrespective of its volume, to Pakistan for a  period of five years from 2012. It was reported in these pages about four days ago, that the US will announce a $2 billion military aid package to Pakistan. Secretary Hillary Clinton made the announcement on Friday that the aid will bolster Islamabad’s efforts to combat militants and assist with Afghanistan war. The news comes amid bombings on Friday that killed a combined nine people, including six soldiers, in Peshawar and Pakistan's northwest tribal region. The five-year package, which requires Congressional approval, is likely to be seen here as a strong diplomatic victory that signals a commitment to Pakistan extending beyond the slated withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2011 – and despite recent tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

The Christian Science Monitor has reported that the package is designed to compliment a $7.5 billion civilian aid deal, which was approved in 2009 and is intended to help thwart extremism through development projects. “The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counter-terrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday at the close of three-day strategic talks between the two nations in Washington. “This symbolizes a long-term commitment to help Pakistan improve its counter-terror capacity and deal with threats emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border but also elsewhere,” says Rifaat Hussain, a security analyst and the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. “It reiterates that the US-Pakistan relationship is for the long term and America will be able to help Pakistan military.”

Relations between the two countries plunged last month after a series of alleged cross-border violations by NATO resulted in the deaths of three soldiers. That, in turn, led Pakistan to close a key-supply line into Afghanistan for several days.  Christine Fair, who has advised the Obama administration on its Pakistan policy and is an assistant professor at Georgetown University, told the Monitor that both sides were furious at each other.

Pakistan's military wanted "to remind the Americans that they have us where they want us.... Pakistan is the only logistical option for [transporting] the supplies," she said. Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, told the Monitor in an e-mail response to questions that US military and civilian aid is just one aspect of an “evolving strategic partnership."

“Both sides are working on overcoming historic grievances and suspicions and focusing on operationalizing the realization that we both need each other,” he said. The announcement is also likely to further irk Pakistan’s neighbor and long-time rival India, where President Obama is due to visit next month, and follows an announcement Thursday that he will also visit Pakistan in 2011.

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