October 28, 2009

Tag-Teaming

Bombs and bullets, dollars and clout, private meetings and rebellion. Propaganda is in the air. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unleashes her media blitz, she faces threats from powers outside her control in addition to America's own behavior.

Then again, maybe India is copying America. Following the attack outside the Kamra Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said he hoped the Pakistan government would, "continue to take steps to effectively secure their nuclear assets.”

Because Pakistan has never heard that one before.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit responded, "Such remarks are evidently self-serving and integral to India's efforts to seek unilateral advantage at the cost of regional strategic stability by its feverish militarization and working on dangerous military doctrines. Instead of finger pointing, India should accept our proposal for promoting a regional strategic restraint regime and work with Pakistan to promote strategic stability in South Asia.”

Pakistan’s nuclear program suffers from crippling ambiguity. Everyone has their own perception: terrorists stealing a bomb, conspiring with the ISI, politically assuming power, or collapsing the state. All are unlikely, though not improbable. A long-term threat, sleeper cells or political uprisings, seem to the realist possibility. The idea of al-Qaeda ripping off a bomb is not.

India acted as expected after Kamra - raise the issue and undermine perceptions of the Pakistani state. Basit said India should "stop its opportunistic propaganda against Pakistan.” India is also doing the business of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, playing the game exactly as planned, breathing life into their propaganda.

Pakistan’s nuclear program will always be part of the equation in South Asia, but offhand mentions in the US media are sheer propaganda to soften Pakistan for future American influence. India is just getting in its punches.

But India did Clinton no favor by triggering Pakistan's guard. Beyond perceived inequality between US-Indian and US-Pakistani relations, US-Indian propaganda tag-teaming will put Pakistan on the defensive. Indian propaganda is nothing new, but combined with Clinton’s Declaration of Propaganda and Pakistan comes under propaganda fire left and right.

It will defend and attack in retaliation.

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