Where is diplomacy going?

Need for introspect on both sides

Strange are the roles within statecraft these days. Especially when it comes to the global juggernaut that is the US. Its top soldiers aren’t quite the tank generals of the Second World War, focussed only on winning individual battles and nothing else. They are soldier-statesmen. Former Military Chief Petraeus was a PhD, no less, in international relations from Princeton University. The ISAF commander’s job description, meanwhile, has as much, nay, more, to do with development economics than fighting the insurgency with firearms.

Conversely, it is the diplomatic corps that can be more aggressive than their military counterparts. Expect Ms Clinton to be more caustic before you expect the same of the American military chief. Like the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta (neither a soldier nor a statesman) was the other day in Kabul. For a high-ranking US official whose next itinerary stop was India, it would have done him good not to ruffle feathers with Pakistan. The quest for better relations with America is not a zero-sum game between India and Pakistan, he could have assured the latter. Don’t be alarmed at better Indo-US relations. The secretary did the exact opposite. Our patience with Pakistan is running out, he has said in Kabul. “It is an increasing concern that the safe haven exists and that there are those — likely Haqqanis — who are making use of that to attack our forces,” Panetta said.

Scarcely words that belong to realms diplomatic, these are already a lightening rod in Pakistan. The US government does not operate on the whims of this operative and that so it would be safe to assume Secretary Panetta’s words underlie a specific, explicitly stated aspect of US policy. Frustrated they might be but it would do them well to realise that one of the things to be frustrated about is how much worse things become when you voice those frustrations, especially in the rage that they inspire.

The Pakistani state also needs to realise that all this talk of patience running out isn’t mere rhetoric. If one were to carry out a survey, one might be surprised to realise that though there is absolutely no support for the western far right’s dream about an attack on Iran, even lefty types in world centres need no great convincing about limited-scale operations in Pakistan.

We need to play the game by its rules. We could demand a change in the rules but then stick to them. Saying one thing and then doing another, especially with regards to the war on terror, is a policy that cannot hold for long.

Pakistan Today