The anger and humiliation caused in Pakistan by the unilateral raid by US naval commandos on the residence of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, and by the inability of the Pakistani Army and Air Force to prevent the raid have had two significant effects.
The first is widespread questioning by different sections of public and military opinion of the advisability of the present level of co-operation with the US and other NATO countries in counter-terrorism and the increasing dependence on the US for military and economic assistance.
While the state of Pakistan is not in a position to reduce its dependence on the US for assistance, an exercise is already on to curtail the present level of co-operation in counter-terrorism. As part of this exercise, there has been a reduction in the presence of intelligence officers and trainers from the US and other NATO countries based in Pakistan. The US and the UK have been told that Pakistan no longer requires training assistance for its security forces engaged in counter-terrorism duties and asked to withdraw the bulk of their trainers from Pakistani territory.
Only two aspects of the bilateral co-operation between Pakistan and the US have remained untouched till now. The first relates to the permission given by the Pakistani authorities for the unloading of logistic supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan at the Karachi port and their road movement to Afghanistan by trucks. The second relates to the informal acceptance by the Pakistani authorities of the operations of the US Drone (pilotless plane) strikes on suspected terrorist infrastructure in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Recently, the US has stepped up its Drone strikes on suspected hide-outs of the Haqqani Network in the Kurram area of the FATA without facing any objection from the military leadership.
Simultaneously with the exercise to re-fashion Pakistan’s relations with the US, one could also discern initial signs of an introspection over the advisability of the present policy of unrelenting hostility to India. Some have started arguing that it is this hostility to India encouraged and promoted by the military leadership that has been leading to a high level of dependence on the US. It is, therefore, argued that if Pakistan wants to reduce its strategic dependence on the US, it has to have a new look at its present policies towards India.
In an article carried by the “Dawn” of Karachi on June 20,2011, Adnan Rehmat a journalist, analyst and media development specialist, who heads an NGO called Intermedia, argued for a new look India policy in the following words: “Misplaced bravado does not make pride and there’s no shame in desiring peace with someone we’ve painted as an enemy. The only way the delusional mindset that ill-serves Pakistan will be righted is when the national security doctrine puts the people, not the military establishment, at the center of Pakistan’s raison d ‘etre. We have tried India as an enemy and it has cost us dearly. It’s time to try India as a friend because the cost of being a friend is far, far less than the cost of being an enemy.”
More than the article itself, what has been a pleasant surprise is the large number of favourable readers’ endorsement that it has been receiving. The article has already received 162 feed-backs from the readers —many of them positive.
The mood of less suspicion towards India which one notices could be attributed not only to the realisation that the past policy of hostility to India has proved counter-productive and increased Pakistan’s dependence on the US, but also to the improvement in the ground situation in Balochistan. The Baloch freedom-struggle is showing signs of losing steam. The number of attacks on Punjabi settlers working in Balochistan has declined. There is less disruption of the gas supply to industrial units in Punjab and Sindh from Balochistan.
The weakening of the Baloch freedom struggle is partly due to infighting among Baloch nationalist leaders and partly due to the ruthless suppression by the Army. India never had any role in encouraging the separatist movement in Balochistan. Despite this, the Pakistani authorities had convinced themselves that the Baloch freedom struggle could not have achieved the successes that it had without clandestine Indian support.
The splits in the movement and its consequent weakening have come as a pleasant surprise to the Pakistani authorities. This seems to be having a benign effect on their perception of India vis-à-vis Balochistan.
The attempt to look at India less negatively as a result of these developments is presently confined to sections of the civil society and to the non-governmental world. One does not as yet see signs of it in the Armed Forces, but the civilian bureaucracy shows signs of keeping its traditional anti-India reflexes in check. The ambiance of declining negativism towards each other noticed during the just concluded talks between Smt. NirupamaRao, India’s Foreign Secretary, and Mr. Salman Bashir, her Pakistani counterpart, at Islamabad, is a sign of hope. Will it endure and gather strength?