Nuanced but discernible: Romney Slightly more supportive of Pakistan during debate


n the third and final debate between US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, India wasn’t mentioned at all, not even once, in the 90-minute debate.

Pakistan was mentioned 25 times and Iran was mentioned 47 times. Here is the count:

Iran: 47 times; Israel: 34 times; China: 32 times; Syria: 28 times; Pakistan: 25 times; Afghanistan: 21 times;

For US policy makers, India did not exist on the world map. Many analysts wondered why Bharat was left out and not discussed or mentioned?

Sadanand Dhume, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (a Conservative Neocon think tank) “India is much less central to US foreign policy than many pundits in New Delhi would like to believe.”

“India is a large and inward-looking country and in many ways it sees itself as the centre of Asia whereas in reality as this debate shows it is not quite the case,” Dhume, a contributing writer to The Wall Street Journal.

RomneyRomney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

Nuanced but discernible: Romney Slightly more supportive of Pakistan during debate and during the campaign.

There was no vitriol against Pakistan, but Obama was more negative–especially when he justified the raid on Abbotabad. There didn’t seem to be much of a policy difference among the candidates on Pakistan. The foreign policy differences between the two candidates were slight. There were distinct nuances, but neither supported continuation of war, or the announcement of new wars. Both candidates are supportive of continued engagement and continuation of aid to Pakistan.

“But it’s important for us to recognise that we can’t just walk away from Pakistan. But we do need to make sure that as we send support for them, that this is tied to them making progress on – on matters that would lead them to becoming a civil society,” Romney said.

Romney voiced his support for the President’s ongoing policy of using unmanned weapons to attack terrorist targets, saying the U.S. should be ready by “any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world.”

Romney on drones: “I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in strikes, and I support that and entirely, and feel the president was right over the usage of that technology, and believe that we should continue to use it, to continue to go after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends. But let me also note that as I said earlier, we’re going to have to do more than just going after leaders and – and killing bad guys, important as that is.”

Both are concerned about Pakistan’s Nuclear program. Even though Governor Romney has supported the drone strikes, he has generally been more supportive of Pakistan during the debate and during the campaign. Romney had declared that America should have sought permission from Pakistan before making the Osama raid. Obama displayed his general distrust for Pakistan during the debate when he said that if we had sought permission from Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden would have escaped. For the record, both candidates have supported withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 with some nuanced differences. Romney said that the withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground (which Obama will also do–but Obama’s withdrawal date is confirmed as per VP Biden).

Obama was not very positive about Pakistan “if we had asked Pakistan permission, we would not have gotten him (bin Laden). And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1:  In this handout image...WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 1: In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office before making a statement to the media about the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. The President made a series of calls, including to Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and others, to inform them of the successful mission. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

When asked if the US should “divorce” Pakistan, Romney gave a strong No to the question.

“No, it’s not time to divorce a nation on Earth that has 100 nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point, a nation that has serious threats from terrorist groups within its nation,” Romney.

“But we do need to make sure that, as we send support for them, that this is tied to them making progress on matters that would lead them to becoming a civil society.”

Obama on the other hand was all over the map and didn’t quiet answer the question, though he did want to stay engaged with Pakistan.

Both the candidates are supportive of the Drone strikes, but Romney may revert to the Bush position if faced with defiance from Islamabad (which has been lacking during the PPP government)–as may Obama. The Republican contender Mitt Romney said that he would continue to engage with Pakistan and would not abandon it because it was a Nuclear power. “So we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government and rebuild a relationship with us. And that means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.” He also said that “It is important for the US to recognise that it cannot just walk away from Pakistan, Romney”.

The 65-year-old Romney responding to a question about the US withdrawal said that Pakistan “is important to the region, to the world and to us” because it had 100 nuclear warheads and was rushing to build a lot more. “They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the relatively near future,” Romney said. “They also have the Haqqani network and Taliban existent within their country. And so a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and us,” he added. Romney argued that despite a strained relationship with Pakistan, the United States cannot afford to “divorce” Pakistan, which is a nation of over 100 nuclear weapons. “No, it’s not time to divorce a nation on earth that has a hundred nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point, a nation that has serious threats from terrorist groups within its nation, the Taliban, Haqqani network. It’s a nation that’s not like others and that does not have a civilian leadership that is calling the shots there,” he said.

Romney supported Pakistan by saying “And so we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government and rebuild the relationship with us. And that means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.”

Romney supported Obama by saying. “I don’t blame the administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We had to go into Pakistan; we had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden. That was the right thing to do,” said the Republican presidential candidate during Af-Pak section of the debate.

Roney said “This is an important part of the world for us. Pakistan is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an ally right now. But we have some work to do. And I – I don’t blame the administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We had to go into Pakistan. We had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden. That was the right thing to do. And that upset them, but obviously there was a great deal of anger even before that. But we’re going to have to work with the people in Pakistan to try and help them move to a more responsible course than the one that they’re on. And it’s important for them. It’s important for the nuclear weapons. It’s important for the success of Afghanistan.”

Discussing Pakistan, Romney said, “It’s a nation that’s not like others and that does not have a civilian leadership that is calling the shots there.

“You’ve got the ISI, their intelligence organisation is probably the most powerful of the three branches there. Then you have the military and then you have the civilian government. This is a nation which if it falls apart — if it becomes a failed state, there are nuclear weapons there and you’ve got — you’ve got terrorists there who could grab their — their hands onto those nuclear weapons”

President Obama is the only US president, or possibly the only American politician that has held office that correctly pronounces the name of the country.

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