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Obama commits time and money to Pak democracy
Posted on: 07-05-2009 , 04:: | DY365 Bureau

The United States on Wednesday pledged "lasting commitment" to democratic governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan and defeating 
al-Qaida and its affiliates in the region, after day-long meetings that forced a truce between the two mutually distrustful countries and prescribed new developmental paradigms for them.

Washington also began a detoxification process to rid Pakistan of the extremism it has nurtured at home to counter its obsessive fear and hatred for India, telling the country’s leadership again and again that it did not have to dread its eastern neighbour but its own home-grown militancy.

In intense day-long talks involving the Presidents and principals of the three countries, Pakistan was also forced subscribe to a specific plan of action, benchmarks, and auditing to earn the more than $20 billion in US and foreign aid it will get in the next decade. Through a spokesman, the Obama administration promised to ensure the aid would not go to finance Pakistan's pathological confrontation with India or terrorist groups it has supported. In return for Pakistan's compliance, Washington pledged enduring support to the country as long as its fight against extremism was genuine and unceasing.

Most of the US-Pakistan pledges were made in private in talks between President Zardari, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although the latter two revealed the outlines of the agreement in brief media appearances. "Within Pakistan, we must provide lasting support to democratic institutions, while helping the government confront the insurgents who are the single greatest threat to the Pakistani state," President Obama said at a White House event, flanked by Presidents Karzai and Zardari, neither of whom spoke there.

The US president's assurance tamped down speculation, especially in Pakistan, that Washington was again starting to favour a military dispensation in Islamabad because of the ineffectiveness of the civilian government in confronting extremists.

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton was a little more forthcoming on the day’s proceedings, saying she was ''actually quite impressed by the actions that the Pakistani government is now taking," vis-à-vis addressing its internal crisis, but cautioning ''this is a long, difficult struggle and the leadership of Pakistan, both civilian and military, really had to work on significant paradigm shifts to be able to see this threat as those of us on the outside perceived it.''

Although that has occurred lately and there is a resolve going forward, "there are still some challenges in terms of assets and resources and approach toward dealing with not a standing army across a border (viz India) but the kind of insurgency and guerrilla warfare that is being waged against the Pakistani state," she added.

Clinton also indicated that Washington would not be bluffed into ponying up aid without accountability, as Pakistan is demanding, observing "a lot of lip service was paid in the past that did not translate into better lives, more safety, more security, economic development for the people of Pakistan."

Seething with resentment throughout the day at being clubbed with Afghanistan, the Pakistanis repeatedly tried to draw attention to their issues with India, but found little traction or comfort.

The best they got was out of Clinton, who, when asked at a briefing why the administration hadn't taken greater action to help to improve relations between India and Pakistan, said "Well, everything in due time," – an indication that there will be activity on this front after the Indian election throws up a new government.

Pakistan also agreed to expeditiously conclude a transit trade agreement with Afghanistan that will not only benefit Islamabad, but also New Delhi and Kabul. Opening up the Wagah-Khyber route will enable land-locked Afghanistan to enhance trade with New Delhi that had been spitefully blocked by Pakistan. The agreement has been discussed without resolution since 1965, but the Obama administration appears to have convinced Pakistan that it is beneficial to all sides.

Besides trade and commerce issues, the day-long talks also involved improving agriculture in the two countries. An array of officials from several departments outside the usual ambit of security participated in the deliberations aimed at advancing new developmental paradigms for the troubled region.



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