The jingoistic media and a Spaniard.
During an official voyage to Spain and then Brussels - the home of both NATO and European Union headquarters - HE Saravia was not the only one to get the jitters from the Pakistani media, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and then the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, also got a taste of what Pakistani leaders have to endure. Perhaps the clinically controlled environment of Spain and Brussels and the language barriers might have made the jingoes amongst the Pakistani media a bit circumscribed, but still some belonging to a jingoistic group managed to spill their beans whenever they could.
The result was that the NATO and EU leadership had to appreciate the 'vibrant' media of Pakistan, but since HE Saravia was caught on the tarmac without any protocols and security net around him and instead of taking refuge behind the language barrier he spoke English, it wasn't long before he realised his wrong landing and took up a tit-for-tat approach. Saravia could hardly find his logical and historically authenticated arguments meeting some logical response rather was being told by the man with a big black bump on his forehead in a jingoistic tone that "given a chance, I would not spare a minute to convert the historic Cordoba Cathedral back to a mosque". When all his (Saravia's) historic knowledge and arguments dried, he preferred to inhale a long shot from the pipe and while throwing the smoke up in the air, and making a damn care gesture posed: "Am I talking to some al Qaeda people?" The response was yes from the same jingo, which made many of his media-tribesmen leave the circle and let the jingo continue with his overtures.
Media jingoism or jingoes aside, the crux of the voyage was that both the EU and NATO promised a lot, but delivered nothing more than mere laurels. Some of the off-the-record conversations with Spaniards and then with the high ups of the EU and NATO revealed that since both organisations are passing through their own transitional periods, they are still not sure how to go about Pakistan, Afghanistan and of course India and China.
The region, for sure, is a constant headache for both organisations and with talks of a visible split within the EU and the very existence of NATO as a military alliance, they both are in a tight corner where they cannot commit anything but goodwill gestures. Still, NATO, basically a military alliance, is bidding to prove utility to its 28 members by telling them they can be equally effective on the non-military side. However, their policy makers, not wished to be named, were of the view that since any EU country or at least those who matter in international politics, and the US are marred by a huge trust deficit, their political goals can best be served by a well-fed, well-equipped and well-entrenched NATO in the region.
Some at the EU agreed with NATO's point of view while many others were left frowning at the very concept of giving political leverage to the armed men, which they believe is effectively controlled by none other than the US. Which brought me to the query that how big is the trust deficit between the US and the EU? The answer was simple, the EU was established to free this region from the political leverage of the US and though the UK has been bed-fellows with Washington throughout this period, yet EU countries don't want the US to dominate their foreign policies as much as the country has been doing in the case of the UK.
Concerned diplomats and bureaucrats in Brussels were of the view that the internal economic crisis has brought us to a situation where the EU wants to develop its own relations with Pakistan and the entire region. The reasons, they cited were quite comprehensible. They believed that a huge consumer market is there, with both India and China as emerging powers of the region and Pakistan being the ultimate corridor to not only Chinese but also to Balkans and Central Asian markets. EU members would resist putting their weight behind giving a non-political mandate to basically a military alliance; i.e. NATO.
Those focusing primarily on trade links and the region in three different branches of the European Union-namely the European Commission, European Council and the European Parliament-were of the view that something needs to be done to bring both Pakistan and India together. Otherwise, they believed that none of them would be able to take advantage of the emerging market realities of the world.
The region, they emphasised, is about to become the focus of the industrialised nations because they ultimately would like to see expansion in terms of their economic gains. Some of them argued that don't' you see why the US has come up with over $6 billion to invest into Pakistan's civil society organisations, plus dolling out monies to your political and military leadership. The same is true for the EU, which has earmarked huge allocations for not only understanding the region better, but also to see for themselves what the ground realities in the region are. Previously, they admitted that whatever we have been banking on was through the prisms of the US and the UK. Since it has become an intense game of economic survival, the EU would like to see its feet on ground zero; i.e. Pakistan, instead of depending on the borrowed, or rather filtered, visions sent via the UK by the US.
In the next column I would like to dwell more on the same issue and share other thoughts of the EU and NATO officials and of course some of the Spaniards, who often prefer silence under the garb of linguistic barriers, but eventually let their feelings loose about the EU, UK and even the US.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Daily Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at email@example.com
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