Use carrot and stick policy with Pakistan: Former US officials

WASHINGTON, June 21: With the Obama Administration preparing to ramp up pressure on Pakistan, two former top US officials have said this policy of “stick” should accompany “carrot” too, arguing that Washington can’t afford to do away with Islamabad at this point of time.

“Given the distrust in the relationship, the United States may be tempted to escalate its indirect conflict with Pakistan over Afghanistan, break any pretense of cooperation, and instead seek to contain the Pakistan-based insurgency to prevent it from operating in Afghanistan, India, or elsewhere,” said Stephen Hadley and John D Podesta in article in July-August issue of the Foreign Affairs magazine.

“Proposals for ramping up pressure on Pakistan include increasing the drone strikes, conducting US Special Forces operations in the country, cutting Islamabad off from international financial resources, labeling Pakistan a state sponsor of terror, and imposing sanctions,” they wrote.

“But ending cooperation with Islamabad would considerably undermine US interests in the country. And given the resiliency of the Taliban insurgency and the inability of the Afghan government to support itself, such a break is unlikely to achieve US goals in Afghanistan, either,” wrote Hadley and Podesta.

While Hadley was the National Security Advisor under the US President George W. Bush, Podesta was the White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, from 1998 until 2001.

“The United States should thus attempt to de-escalate tensions with Pakistan and restore security and political cooperation.

Washington should maintain the ability to act unilaterally in cases in which the United States’ immediate security is at risk or if renewed cooperation with Islamabad fails. But this approach will prove too costly—for both the United States and Pakistan—if pursued over the long term,” they wrote.

That is why the Obama administration and Pakistani leaders are attempting to redefine the relationship in the wake of the Pakistani parliament’s lengthy review of the two countries’ terms of cooperation, they said.

“The United States and Pakistan will continue to disagree on a host of issues, such as drone strikes and the perceived threat from India. But after a series of crises in the relationship over the past year, both sides should see with renewed clarity the need to find a working relationship that accommodates their core interests,” the two former US officials said.

Headley and Podesta said that the US should also encourage Pakistan’s transition to a mature, civilian-led democracy.

Washington should send clear diplomatic messages to all Pakistani political actors that military coups or other extra-constitutional ousters of a civilian government will carry drastic consequences for US-Pakistani cooperation, they said.

“Over time, Washington also needs to shift its principal forum of dialogue with Pakistani officials from the military to the civilian sector. To be sure, working with the military through the civilian government, rather than directly, may be impossible at a time when the United States’ policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are so intrinsically linked,” they said.

“But Washington can start by lowering the public profile of the visits of its military envoys to Pakistan in favour of enhancing its interactions with civilian counterparts, the US officials said.

Moreover, the United States should not limit its engagement with Pakistan’s civilian leadership to only those serving in government but engage with all political parties and civil-society groups in the country. And Washington should cultivate relationships with the next generation of civilian leaders, who offer the best hope for a turnaround in Pakistan,” Headley and Podesta wrote.

“The United States should appoint an official, based in the region and reporting to Marc Grossman, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be specifically tasked with working with Afghan and Pakistani officials to develop a plan for engaging the Taliban,” they said.

The United States should use both carrots and sticks to get Pakistan to act against those insurgents who are unwilling to negotiate, they added. (PTI)