US can’t stop talkin’ about Pakistan

Updated on Feb 11, 2008 12:42 AM IST
Pakistan has supplanted India as the South Asian point of pontification in Washington especially after former PM Benazir Bhutto's assassination, reports Pramit Pal Chaudhuri.
HT Image
HT Image
Hindustan Times | ByPramit Pal Chaudhuri, New York

Pakistan has supplanted India as the South Asian point of pontification in Washington. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination helped. So did the general US view that New Delhi had lapsed into paralysis. “India is the country that can’t say yes to America,” joked a State Department official. Or say “no” or even, “perhaps”.

In comparison, of course, Pakistan is the country that can only express itself through an AK-47. I often found myself in a strange position: an Indian arguing against doomsday thinking about Pakistan. This was partly because I felt that talk of a “nuclear Taliban state” destroyed any sensible long-term thinking in the US about Pakistan’s future. This phobia degenerated quickly into the view that only Musharraf-type strongmen could be trusted.

After Benazir’s death, I was called in for a half-dozen TV and radio interviews about Pakistan. Anchors and fellow panelists rolled their eyes when I argued Pakistan was only a mitigated disaster. “If Pakistani Punjab was a separate state,” I would note, “it would be per capita the richest country in South Asia. Punjab is the sheet anchor of the country and it isn’t cracking up. Yet.”

I got a flavour of why there was so much skepticism. After I was called in by a CNN America staffer for the third time, I gently said it was perhaps apolitic to keep using an Indian journalist to comment on Pakistan. “Look, all our regular Pakistani sources are either too scared to talk or in jail,” said the staffer.

The good ol’ Days of the US-Pakistan relationship were revived, however briefly, when I spoke at the Asia Society Texas in mid-January. The star of the event was Houston socialite Joanne Herring — the formidable woman who aroused the US to help the Afghans beat the Soviet Union. Her work is now immortalised by Julia Roberts in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War.

She sensibly denounced the US for walking away from the Afghans after the Soviet withdrawal. But weirdly warned the audience of present-day “Russian involvement with the Taliban.” The largely Pakistani-American audience applauded politely. The heroine was in a timewarp. (to be continued)

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Tourists go through pre-departure formalities at the Sanya Phoenix airport as stranded holidaymakers prepare to leave the Covid-hit resort city of Sanya on Hainan Island in China. (Photo by Str/AFP)

    Global Covid deaths drop by 9%, Omicron subvariant BA.5 remains dominant: WHO

    The WHO said that the Omicron subvariant BA.5 continues to remain dominant worldwide, contributing nearly 70 per cent to all virus sequences shared with the world's biggest publicly available virus database. It added that other Omicron subvariants such as BA.4 and BA.2, appear to be decreasing in prevalence as BA.5 takes control.

  • A view of Hangzhou city in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. (AFP)

    First special business flight with over 100 Indian traders lands in China

    A special flight with 107 Indian traders landed in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou on Tuesday, carrying many who were stuck in India since 2020 despite business interests in China because of the restrictions imposed by Beijing on international travel to contain Covid-19. This particular group of Indian merchants boarded the special China Southern Airlines flight from New Delhi and landed in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, on Tuesday.

  • Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Mexican President proposes peace commission led by 3 leaders including PM Modi

    Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is planning to submit a written proposal to the UN to create a commission, made up of three world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to promote a world truce for a period of five years, MSN web portal reported. The Mexican President proposed that the top commission should include Pope Francis, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and Indian PM Narendra Modi.

  • Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan island, one of mainland China's closest points from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022. (AFP)

    In major policy shift, China says it will take Taiwan by force if necessary

    China on Wednesday, in only its third white paper on Taiwan since 1993 and the first after President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, said it will not “renounce” the use of military force to bring the self-governed island under its control as its armed forces concluded the largest ever exercises around the island but announced that it will conduct regular patrols in the region.

  • The new animal origin virus is in the same genus as the Nipah virus, and so far these cases have not been fatal or very serious. (Bloomberg File Photo/Representative image)

    New zoonotic virus found in China, 35 known cases of infection: Study

    A new animal origin virus, which could infect humans, has been discovered in two provinces in China, scientists from China and Singapore have said in a new study. At least 35 such cases have been recorded in eastern China's Shandong province and central China's Henan province, said the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on August 4.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now