The Trilateral Meeting - Obama, Zardari and Karzai

The achievements and embarrassments of Zardari visit
The News, May 10, 2009
By Shaheen Sehbai

WASHINGTON: Three major outcomes of the bilateral and trilateral summit talks between Presidents Zardari, Obama and Karzai are now becoming visible as officials of the three countries hammer out details of how much money would be poured in, how it would be spent and how it would be monitored.

According to officials and experts involved in the intense talks and negotiations, the broader picture emerging from the Zardari visit includes the following three conclusions:

* The tensions in relations between President Asif Zardari and President Karzai of Afghanistan have been removed and both have developed a good and cordial working relationship because both are being asked by President Obama to meet almost similar benchmarks, both are looked at suspiciously and are not fully trusted with money and both are believed to be unpopular and weak. In fact in so many ways, President Zardari has been forced to stand in the much smaller league of Karzai.

* The Americans have decided to pump in a lot of money into Pakistan, almost 1.9 billion dollars into non-military development sectors this year and $ 1.5 billion annually later. The Congress and the Executive Branch agree on this and the process of authorisations will move quickly through the House and Senate and the president will sign the laws without any delay. But the Pakistanis have been forced to accept a disbursement and oversight mechanism which will be very different from the years of General Musharraf when dollars were sent and no one knew where they were being spent.

* The Americans have succeeded, almost, in convincing President Zardari and to a great degree the Pakistan Army, that India is not playing a negative role in Afghanistan and Pakistan should not be unduly concerned. The Indian role, the Americans tried to assure the Pakistanis, was one to help both Afghanistan and Pakistan to overcome the Taliban menace and not to weaken Pakistan.

These three larger outcomes have a lot of highly controversial and even outrightly embarrassing details which the Pakistanis may find hard to explain to their domestic critics and experts. The devil is in the detail, it is said, and this cliche fits exactly in the current situation.

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