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What Hillary’s emails say about US-Pakistan diplomacy

If diplomacy is an art, as some have said, handling Pakistan can be high art, as seen in a bunch of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s emails released Monday night.

world Updated: Sep 03, 2015 21:45 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
File photo of Democrat Hillary Clinton, speaking during a press conference at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa. A new tranche of 7,000 additional pages of emails from the former US secretary of state's private server were released on August 31. (Reuters Photo)

If diplomacy is an art, as some have said, handling Pakistan can be high art, as seen in a bunch of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s emails released on Monday night.

In a 2010 email chain, Clinton’s aides debated the use of the phrase “do more” in the context of US comments and remarks about Pakistan’s counter-terrorism measures.

Whenever the US uses the phrase “do More” to ask Pakistan to do more on terrorism, Pakistanis use it, a state department official said in the mail, to tell their people that, “After so much cost and so many losses and so many bombs in our cities, the Americans are telling us we're still not doing enough.”

“This negative interpretation is used by the PakMil (Pakistan’s military) to convince Pakistanis that the US is a malign influence and to avoid taking the steps we seek.”

So, the aide suggested that Clinton should be briefed to “avoid literally using the words ‘do more’,” but “Do not hesitate to specify what we want them to do.”

That seems to be US policy now. NSA Susan Rice, who was over in Islamabad past weekend, urged Pakistan to “intensify its efforts to counter terrorist sanctuaries”. And not to “do more”.

The state department released Monday 4,000 pages of Clinton’s emails from her years as secretary of state. Redactions indicate about 150 of them contained classified information.

Clinton’s mails are facing scrutiny as they were received or sent using an account hosted on a private server at her home. She has claimed there was nothing confidential in them.

Among other Pakistan related mail, current and former US diplomats refer to Islamabad’s desire for a nuclear deal to match the one US has with India, with some dread and trepidation.

“That issue: the bad and the good (and the ugly)”, is how former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott, called it in a mail to Clinton, alerting her to some news reports from Pakistan.

One report cited Pakistan’s then ambassador to US Husain Haqqani saying the US was ready to give Islamabad a nuclear deal. US denial was contained in the second report.

“The first is exactly the bad story I was worried about.

The second is the Administration's attempt to shoot it down.

Bottom line (another four-letter word): ‘Whew!’,” Talbott wrote.

In another email, from 2010, the US impatience with Pakistani leadership shows through — trying to prevent president Asif Zardari from leaving the country at a time of devastating floods.

The mail said the then US ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson met him and urged him to continue his public engagements. “She believes he is getting the message.”

But the tone is one of irritation. “Zardari still plans to be out of Pakistan on August 18 in Sochi. We have assurances, though, that this will be a one-day trip.”

First Published: Sep 02, 2015 00:16 IST