Wake up call for Pak

ISLAMABAD: The symbolism, trade deals and fine words of Barack Obama’s courtship of India should be Pakistan’s wake-up call to fix its economy and eradicate militancy to ward off isolation, analysts say.

The US president declared India a world power, the India-US alliance “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century” and unveiled deals worth 10 billion dollars designed to create 50,000 American jobs in an ailing economy.

Going further than any US president before, he backed India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, although with no immediate prospect of reform and likely strong Chinese opposition, it was a largely symbolic move.

Just weeks after Pakistan’s latest round of “strategic dialogue” with the US in a bid to overcome mistrust, the warm embrace between Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stood in stark contrast.

“Pakistanis have to be more realistic on understanding India’s growing international role,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

“India is investing in the United States while our economy is in bad shape. There is no Pakistani investment in the West, very little in the Middle East. We ask for money from the United States, while India does not.”

Indian deals will funnel 10 billion dollars into the US economy, while under a US Congress bill American taxpayers fork out 1.5 billion a year for development in Pakistan with promises of another two billion dollars in military assistance.

While Obama’s visit reflects the shift in power to emerging nations since the financial crisis, Pakistan is a considered client state with a Taliban and al Qaeda presence plotting to kill US soldiers and fanning the war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, whose status as a nuclear power still alarms the West, has been stifled by decades of military rule, recession and religious extremism.

Its security forces are fighting a Taliban insurgency in the northwest.

Bomb attacks have killed thousands nationwide and its tribal belt is considered an al Qaeda headquarters subject to a covert US drone war.

Writing in The News daily, public policy consultant Mosharraf Zaidi said the only lesson to draw from Obama’s visit was “the deals being made”.

“While we drown in the inanities of this country’s infinite and perpetual search for identity, we are deepening our current bankruptcy, and ensuring a future of mostly begging for handouts.”

With Obama visiting Indonesia, APEC in Japan and the G20 in South Korea, Zaidi said: “The reason he is not visiting Pakistan is obvious. Pakistan does not belong on that list of countries and that is not India’s fault.”

Analysts say Islamabad should soften its foreign policy, dominated by the anti-Indian military, to avoid isolation as the United States looks to end the war against the Afghan Taliban.

“In today’s world, defeat can be described in one way only: international isolation”¦Pakistan must learn to be more objective about the crisis it is facing internally,” wrote The Express Tribune in an editorial.

“Pakistan can sort out this crisis through self-correction.”

But there was also gratitude; unlike British Prime Minister David Cameron ”” who sparked a diplomatic crisis when he accused Pakistan of exporting terror while in India ”” Obama refused to be drawn into fresh criticism of Islamabad.

He urged India and Pakistan to resolve their differences and called on Islamabad to do more against militants, but acknowledged the country was making progress against what he called the “cancer” of extremism.

Askari said in what was a nod to the US realisation that the country is indispensable to forging peace in Afghanistan, Obama did not sideline Pakistan.

“What he said about terrorist havens in the tribal areas is what the Americans have been saying before his visit”¦he avoided any criticism of Pakistan which the Indians were expecting,” said Askari.

Former lieutenant general-turned-security analyst Talat Masood said Pakistan was obviously concerned by US-India ties, and would remain apprehensive about India unless relations with Pakistan are normalised.

“But there is not much it can do. Pakistan has to adjust itself to the existing reality. It should improve its own domestic situation,” Masood said.

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