WASHINGTON, June 10: Yet another crisis in US-Pakistan relations was quietly avoided when the US Defence Intelligence Agency cancelled a seminar which was to highlight the Baloch issue.
The agency, which is affiliated with the US Department of Defence, had already published a detailed programme of the proposed seminar on its website.
But a new message posted on the same site said that “due to unforeseen mission circumstances”, the event has been cancelled.
“We appreciate your interest in participating and hope you can join us for future educational seminars where we will explore important issues affecting our national security,” it added.
The “unforeseen circumstances”, although not explained in the cancellation notice, included joint efforts by some senior US and Pakistani officials who felt that holding a seminar which focuses on Balochistan would jeopardise their efforts to normalise relations between the two countries.
The Pakistan Embassy in Washington when contacted, refused to comment, but US sources said that the embassy and the Pakistan Foreign Office had also been working hard to get this event cancelled.
They alerted senior Pentagon and State Department officials about how this seminar would be viewed in Pakistan and with support from US officials were able to convince the organisers to call it off.
Islamabad argued that recent resolutions moved by a Republican lawmaker, Dana Rohrabacher, who supports the demand for an independent Balochistan, were already seen in Pakistan as provocative and ill-advised.
Pakistani officials pointed out that a seminar sponsored by a US government agency will undo all these efforts and will convince the Pakistanis that the US administration also backed efforts to break up their country.
“Good sense prevailed and they cancelled the event,” said a Pakistani academic who had been asked to speak but had pulled out.
The programme posted previously on the DIA website said the seminar was to “focus on two critical geographical/ political areas in Pakistan — the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan” and will “explore these areas in terms of governance, economics, and security, as well as the impact of internal and external influences”. Key speakers included BLA leaders.
Diplomatic observers in Washington say that the decision to cancel the seminar would help defuse the impression that the United States and Pakistan were now “beginning to look more like enemies” than friends.