Saturday, 7 August 2010

Selling out

"Cameron stood by his remarks when he appeared on Radio 4's Today programme this morning a few minutes after delivering his speech.
"The point I was simply making in response to a question is we have to be clear in our dealings with the Pakistanis, as we are and as the Americans are, that it is unacceptable for any support to be given from within Pakistan for any terrorist organisations that export terror."

Asked whether Pakistan exports terrorism, Cameron said: "I choose my words very carefully, which is that it is unacceptable for anything to happen within Pakistan that is about supporting terrorism elsewhere.

"It is well documented that that has been the case in the past and it is an issue that we have to make sure that the Pakistan authorities are not looking two ways. They must only look one way and that is to a democratic and stable Pakistan that can have good relations with a democratic and stable Afghanistan."
That was then. This is now
"After days of tensions, the Prime Minister and Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari emerged from Chequers to declare a fresh agreement on military and civilian co-operation to take on the Taliban and other extremists.

The two leaders heaped praise on each other after what aides described as a "very warm" meeting in the premier's official country residence. Under the deal, there will be an annual UK-Pakistan summit to monitor progress on security as well as trade, aid and other links. For the first time there will be formal exchanges of military information and advice."
So, what has changed? Either Dave was ill-informed when he voiced his doubts or he has made an incredible volte face in the space of a few hours in meetings which covered not only Afghanistan but aid to Pakistan and a memorial where Zardari milked the memory of his murdered wife, Bhutto.

All this against a background of criticism of the man he was meeting. Nightly we are subjected to wall to wall coverage of the miseries arising from the floods and lack of any action by the Pakistan government. The President says he has left someone in charge of things but fails to appreciate that it may be beyond the abilities of his depute. The sufferers rail against him. The anger of the flood victims poses a danger to the already struggling government and competing with Islamist movements to deliver aid in a region with strong Taliban influence.

So, where does Cameron get the idea that this is a democratic and stable Pakistan? How does he combine that with a democratic and stable Afghanistan? Both are figments of his imagination. There is history of friction - "Afghanistan lashed out at Pakistan on Monday, alleging that its intelligence service and Army are behind the bloody Taliban-led insurgency, calling Pakistan's security forces the "world's biggest producers of terrorism and extremism".

What happens in Pakistan will depend on the personal actions of Zadari and that will depend upon self-interest. He will doubtless be mindful of what happened to his wife when it comes to facing down the Taliban. His country is a large piece of real estate and he could well tolerate the Taliban having control of vast swathes of it where they decide they can do the most harm to our efforts in Afghanistan.

Britain is a major aid donor to Pakistan, having pledged 665 million pounds to Pakistan from 2009-2013. We have no way of overseeing how and where this money goes and no means of evaluating whether we are getting value for money. It is money that could be totally wasted with just one pistol shot.

Cameron's remarks were foolish in the extreme. A significant proportion of the Moslem population in this country is already alienated by our blundering intervention in Afghanistan. Our supply lines for this futile war run through Pakistan, and the Pakistani army is fighting Islamic militants in the tribal areas. Anyone with any sense knows that Afghanistan is not the real issue, which is just as well, as the war there was lost long ago. What is at stake is the radicalisation of a nuclear-armed Pakistan. Congratulations, Mr Cameron. Your posturing has brought this a step closer.

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