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Emotion versus reality

June 04, 2011

A man points towards the Wikileaks memos shown on a TV screen at an electronic shop in Karachi, Pakistan on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari sought a pledge from the United Arab Emirates to allow his family long-term refuge, as they did for his late wife, if he died or was killed, according to a secret diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. – AP Photo

THIS publication's WikiLeaks scoop (well done, by the way!) has certainly opened things up, and we are being hit in the face with what actually transpires behind those wondrous closed doors, and what others actually think of us, rightly or wrongly.

WikiLeaks No.153436, was the subject of a Dawn report last month under the heading ‘US thinks anti-Americanism rife in NDU’, a particularly topical topic considering what the month of May brought to us — revelations of not only the ineptitude of our civilian leadership but failings which we never imagined could crop up in our mighty military. It could possibly slightly illuminate the murk surrounding Abbottabad and Mehran.

In 2007, the National Defence College was upgraded as the National Defence University. Its role is “to impart higher education in policy and strategy formulation at various tiers with emphasis on national security and defence, and act as a national think tank”. Amongst its students are those considered by the military to be highly capable and educated graduates of the various military institutions.

That was the year that US ambassador Anne Patterson addressed the students of the NDU (her cable was not sent until 2008). Questions put to her were “astonishingly naïve and biased” about the US: “The elite crop of colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU training with no chance to hear the alternative views of the US.” She was especially concerned about what she termed the “lost generation”, military officers who missed out on International Military Education and Training during the “sanction years” (1990 onwards to 2001).

Ms Patterson quoted a US colonel who had attended an NDU course who was not only startled at the anti-Americanism but also at the naivety evinced when it came to Pakistan’s security machinery and even its society.

This should surprise us, but no, it does not. Neither do the rank feelings about the US: “The senior-level instructors had misconceptions about US policies and culture and infused their lectures with these suspicions”, which are shared by the students though, as remarked the colonel, both instructors and students were happy having their children study at universities in the US and UK.

One must suppose that the good colonel was somewhat horrified when he wrote, as we are to read: “The NDU students also obtained financial perks, such as a free trip for pilgrimage that could be taken at the end of the class’ official travels.” So, the culture of freebie invalid Haj or umra trips is not confined to the civilian lot.

Our ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, here on a visit (with Senator John Kerry) was invited to address the NDU which he did on May 18. His subject was 'Emotion and reality in Pakistan’s foreign policy'. Pakistan emotions on the one hand, and US impatience on the other, have helped to build up, over the years, a trust deficit. No relationship is equal, it can never be (what HH did not say is that both partners have to be as tall as each other to be able to look one another in the eye). So why expect it to ever be — remember Lord Palmerston and his famous adage that in foreign policy there is not such thing as a permanent friend or a permanent enemy. National interest dictates.

At one point, early in his talk, he asked how many amongst his audience considered Pakistan’s principal security threat to be from India, or from within, or from the US, One third of the attendees indicated that it came from the US. How did he respond?

“If it really comes from the United States then we’ve already lost, ladies and gentlemen, because you can`t beat the United States in a military confrontation and that is the reality which we have to accept whatever our emotions. Because, let us be honest, we do not have the means to take on the one military power in the world that spends more on defence technology than the next 20 nations in the world. So that is where I think we sometimes end up having what I call an `emotional discussion`. I see it on Pakistani television all the time.”

What is needed is a logical, reality-based foreign policy to advance Pakistan’s interests and to focus on education and a growing Pakistan’s economy as a realistic way to secure Pakistan’s interests for the future.

HH spoke of the global village that this world has become and how this country needs to join in — but how can it when its population is largely illiterate? Only 52 per cent of Pakistan’s children go to school (in India it is 92 per cent, Bangladesh 96 per cent, Sri Lanka 99 per cent). And of our 180 millions, over 90 million are under the age of 18. How do we integrate uneducated youths into the global village?

Well, realistically, would we not respond, first of all Pakistan should sort out the real threat from within, domestic terrorism which is shedding much blood, and the threat from without, India, which has in the past shed blood. Then get on with the urgent task of educating the young people who are the future of this country and who need to be a part of the 21st century if this country is ever to progress, if it is ever to be at eye level with other countries.

And, importantly, as said US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently in direct and clear language, we should realise that it is “up to Pakistan’s leaders” to stop blaming the United States for their country’s myriad economic, governance and security problems. “Anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make the problems disappear.”