The transcript of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s Q&A following the Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series at Arkansas on Friday was released by state department in Washington only on Monday after careful vetting, and it becomes an authoritative policy position on the US-Pakistan ties.
It comes just in time for Delhi to assimilate a few stunning geopolitical realities before tuning into Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s ORF Memorial Lecture at the Indian capital on Wednesday.
Unsurprisingly, Clinton strove to bury the war cries and instead carry forward the US’s great reconciliation with Pakistan
. She put Pakistan back on its high pedestal as not only the US’ close partner in the war on terror, but as “critical” for the “ongoing stability and peace in the region.” Clinton paid fulsome praise to Pakistan for the high sacrifices it is making in the war on terror — more than the US’s own, in fact.
Shockingly, Clinton made it a point to take note that Pakistan lives in a “very difficult security enviornment”, characterised amongst other things by its “deep concerns about India”, which of course places Washington in a “challenging position” – defined, presumably, by the US’ own regional concerns and strategies as well as its so-called “indispensable partnership” with India.
Equally intriguing was Clinton’s admission that US is as much responsible for the Haqqani network’s existence today as Pakistan could be. She sensitises the American opinion by even produced a YouTube to underscore the legitimacy of the Pakistani allegation that the US did encourage it to hobnob with the Haqqanis, who were once America’s blue-eyed boys. She clarified, inter alia, that she is not condoning still the “serious, grievous, strategic error” by Pakistan in supporting the Haqqanis, who are like a “wild animal in the backyard.”
Interestingly, Clinton doesn’t spell out what precisely the US now expects Pakistan to do vis-a-vis Haqqanis — except to say Islamabad should “prevent any attacks against us [US troops] emanating from Pakistan.” Does she want Pakistan to smash up the Haqqanis and erase them out of the AfPak region? She doesn’t say so. Does she say US won’t have any truck with Haqqanis? She doesn’t say so. In fact, by acknowledging that Haqqanis were once US’s valued interlocutor, she implied that they can as well be so again in future. Put plainly, US wants Pakistan to domesticate the “wild animal”.
The hard reality is that the US has got Haji Malik Khan, Sirajuddin Haqqani’s uncle and the ‘brain’ of the Haqqani network in its custody for almost a week by now, and there is no need to second guess that the CIA interrogators and state department’s diplomats have already begun “engaging” the Haqqanis. Clinton’s words of gratitude, hailing Pakistan as a factor of regional security and stability, is timely.
Time for Delhi to ponder what is there in all this for India’s interests? Maybe, Karzai will explain the art of the possible. Or, maybe, Marc Grossman, US’s special representative, who is visiting the Indian capital this week, will comfort our policymakers and and advice them to let bygones be bygones (such as those murderous attacks on the Indian mission in Kabul) and gently accept the fait accompli in the larger interests of the US-India “indispensable partnership” of the 21st century.
The moment of truth has arrived in the 10-year old US invasion of Afghanistan, which Delhi euphorically welcomed in October 2001. The then PM A.B. Vajpayee, in fact, said that it was going to be the best Diwali he ever had in his life — since India’s “natural ally” was taking up habitation in the region. Read Clinton’s Q&A here