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Balochistan resolution

February 19, 2012

IN a more rational world, Pak-US relations would be conducted in a calm and reasonable manner against a backdrop of mutual respect for and understanding of what animates the other country’s interests. Alas, in the world we do inhabit many of those traits are missing when it comes to the business of Pak-US relations. Taking the bait of Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Pakistani officials have fallen over themselves to express outrage at the congressman’s attempt — doomed to failure from the outset — to get his fellow American legislators to support a Baloch right to self-determination. On Saturday, Prime Minister Gilani himself denounced Mr Rohrabacher’s resolution. Politicians will be politicians and, given that Mr Rohrabacher was the one who chose to deliberately provoke, perhaps it was too much to hope for that Pakistani officialdom would not react. Amidst all of this, the US administration has tried to put some distance between itself and the troublemaking Congressman Rohrabacher but the assurance that US government policy very much respects the existing boundaries of Pakistan is already drowned out by the conspiracy brigade here that sees grand plans to arm-twist or undermine Pakistan behind every move that originates in the US.

But playing politics with international relations comes with its own set of dangers. In a more functional world, the government here would have understood that while protesting Mr Rohrabacher’s initiative was necessary for the purposes of domestic politics, some rationality also had to be injected into the debate by clearly indicating that Mr Rohrabacher was not the face of the US administration and that his is a minority point of view in US foreign policy circles. The dangers of whipping up anti-Americanism are well known to anyone who has followed the security establishment’s use of such tactics as a buffer against American demands: sooner than later, the state here becomes hostage to the very anti-Americanism it fans to try and gain a tactical advantage.

Consider that one of the reasons the recommendations for revamping Pak-US relations have not been laid before a joint session of parliament is believed to be the government’s concern about the reaction of right-wing groupings, most notably the Difaa-i-Pakistan, that have mobilised in the country in recent months. Given that the right-wing wants a complete break in ties with the US, and that’s something good sense and reality would dictate against, the government is content to delay the normalisation of ties with the US. This is what happens when mindless anti-Americanism is rampant. So, condemn Mr Rohrabacher by all means but also take care to not stoke passions to which the state itself becomes hostage.