Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thrown to the wolves

Charming, open and conciliatory, Hillary Clinton did very well by my estimation in her conversation with the Pakistani press tonight. Meeting with so many fiercely anti-American journalists at once might have seemed suicidal but she pulled it off. Clinton admitted to America's past mistakes, to Bush's blunders, to America's part in creating the Taliban and expressed the Obama administration's desire to "turn a new page" on Pak-US relations repeatedly.

She addressed the Kerry-Lugar Bill fiasco reasonably well, too. First, she admitted that America should have been more sensitive to Pakistan's reaction and then pointed out that (a) the conditions attached were normal consistent with aid bills to countries like Israel and Egypt; (b) they were also binding only on the US government and not Pakistan; (c) American legislators had to explain the massive $7.5 billion aid to their constituents, who in such hard times would want the money to be spent at home, making these kinds of checks necessary.

The journos – one from each major news channel – all seemed fixated on Kerry-Lugar and one after another repeated the same worn out question about the gap between her friendly words and the imperial designs of KLB. When asked this the umpteenth time she lost her cool, declaring very emphatically that Pakistan is free to refuse US aid if it so pleases, that America was not forcing Pakistan to accept it. The exasperation behind the comment was counterproductive but otherwise Clinton kept her own.

All those bloodthirsty town halls she put herself through on the election trail last year really paid off. The six journalists tonight turned out to be no challenge for her at all. Her Pakistan green blouse was perhaps a bit much but at least she managed to placate the anti-America camp in my family. Am curious to see what the rest of Pakistan thought...

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