Pak complains to US about ‘LOC Aggression’

WASHINGTON: On his first visit to the US and the first in four years by a top Pakistani general, Gen Raheel Sharif met US Central Command chief Gen Lloyd Dennis, under whose jurisdiction Pakistan falls in Tampa. 

He told the US how India's aggressive posture on its border is distracting Pakistan from its fight against extremists on its border with Afghanistan. Pakistan's military spokesman Asim Bajwa tweeted to say, “Gen #Raheel gave Pak perspective on regional security, improving Pak-Afgn mil relation, Indian aggression along LOC.” 

Oddly, none other than Pakistan’s own chief foreign advisor- Sartaj Aziz shot him in the foot, by going on record in an interview to the BBC soon after, that his government is not going to target militants that do not pose a threat to the state. That, this blew a rather big hole in the narrative that both Sharif and his US-aid dependent Army had been carefully constructing ahead of the high-profile US visit, to convey Pakistan's renewed resolve to fight terrorists was hard to miss. How far this will go in mending Islamabad’s strained ties with Washington and whether Pakistan will still be able to extract more aid and military supplies from the US, is not clear.  

Gen Raheel Sharif’s US visit is an attempt to rebuild Pakistan’s military ties with Washington that have been undermined by the US raid on an Abbottabad villa that found and killed Osama bin laden, flaming rows over spying activity against each other. Ahead of the visit, the Pakistan Army had tried to piece together a narrative about the country’s resolve to fight all terrorists by launching an all-out battle to wipe out their safe-havens in North Waziristan. Chidananda Rajghatta reports for TOI from Washington that part of that narrative involved telling the US that India's aggressive posture on its border was distracting Pakistan from its fight against extremists on its border with Afghanistan, who were in turn attacking coalition forces inside Afghanistan. Sharif even went ahead and made this point in his interactions with top US officials.

But ahead of Raheel Sharif's meeting in Washington DC on Tuesday, 18 November, when he was scheduled to call on the chairman of joint chiefs of staff General Martin Dempsey and other Washington principals, Pakistan's foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz embarrassed him by suggesting in an interview to BBC that Pakistan has not really changed with respect to its assessment about terrorism. 

“Why should America's enemies unnecessarily become our enemies,” Aziz, Pakistani prime minister's advisor on national security and foreign affairs, was quoted as saying. “When the United States attacked Afghanistan, all those that were trained and armed by us together were pushed towards Pakistan. Some of them were dangerous for us and some were not. Why must we make enemies out of them all?” he said. 

In an effort to save face, the Pakistani foreign office claimed Aziz’s statement was made in a “historical context” and Pakistan's resolve to fight ‘all’ terrorists should not be doubted. 

But it remains to be seen how all this will go down in Washington, where many long-time Pakistan sympathisers infused with romantic memories of Cold War partnerships are fading away, and the new crop of military and civilian leaders are lacerated by stories of Pakistani depredations that have killed and wounded thousands of US troops in Afghanistan. 

The fourth season of an ongoing television series called- Homeland, which is a Washington staple, actually captures in vivid details, some of the Pakistani double-dealing. Although viewers in the subcontinent have raised questions about the authenticity and research involved in some of the stories, the show dealing with security challenges to the United States, has actually made the narrative about Pakistan’s role in supporting terror, an acceptable part of popular culture. 

Gen Raheel Sharif and the Pakistan team are attempting to overcome the stigma by launching a full-scale military operation against militants in its tribal regions and making peace with the new government in Kabul ahead of their visit to Washington DC, but for a change the country's civilian leadership may have torpedoed the mission.

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