Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Toffee is poisoned kid!

The US decision to designate Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally evoked strong reactions in India, first in Opposition and then in the government. The latter didn’t question the US decision but objected to not being kept in the loop.

NATO is North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a group of countries in Europe led by US who treat an attack on a member as one on all. Then there are countries which are not in NATO but get defence aid from the US on priority like Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. Pakistan has just joined this club.

So should we behave like the child who didn’t get the toffee?
The answer is NO. We ain't no kid.

Immature reactions borne out of our Pakistan-hyphenated view of the world has led Uncle Sam to give India the same status. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, when asked at a press briefing on Monday about Washington's recent decision, said: “I think we made it clear that we’re willing to explore the same possibility of similar cooperation with India.”

Should we be happy that we too would get toffee? Answer is NO. We ain't no kid.

The US decision to make Pakistan a MNNA, as some newspapers abbreviated the status, should not worry New Delhi. It’s Islamabad that has to worry about this.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says: “This decision underscored the importance of Pakistan's role in the war against international terrorism, particularly in the continuing fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.”

Well, and the timing too underscored a lot of things. The US-Pakistan Army joint action in the South Waziristan and parts of NWFP has led to unrest among the local population.

These areas have never known or recognised any Pakistani law or government, though they are part of Pakistan. Today they see Pakistani political agents, Pakistani military and US troops in overdrive in their villages and hillocks.

The US believes these tribals have protected and sheltered its enemy no. 1 Osama bin Laden. The unrest in these areas could have rippled on to other parts of the country. The MNNA was to turn the talking point while the gunbattle raged in Waziristan. To make Pakistanis be proud of something they have and India doesn’t. The toffee.

The treaty would just help calm the Pakistani Opposition, which had been accusing President General Pervez Musharraf of “sellout”. Now the general can claim he is getting good price. But he must not forget the status comes with a price tag. US troops are permanently stationed in most of the so-called MNNAs including Japan. The US already has considerable US military presence in Pakistan. This treaty would legitimise it.

If you have foreign forces based on your land, history has it, the perception of security may be high, but in reality sovereignty is compromised and so is defence.

The toffee is poisoned, kid.

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