AZAM KHALIL "I have discovered the art of deceiving diplomats. I speak the truth, and they never believe me." - Di Cavour The passage of the Kerry-Lugar Bill has exposed the depth of Pakistani and US relations. While the timing of the passage of this bill in the American Senate helped establish the credentials of Pakistani President Mr Asif Ali Zardari and the hard work put in by Ambassador Husain Haqqani, yet the amount of $1.5 billion per year may not be enough for the price that it will exact from the people of this country. For many there is a silver lining attached with this piece of legislation that creates an impression that to qualify for this aid the Americans have to be assured that Pakistan's powerful military is working under the directions of the civil administration. There are some other painful conditions imposed by the United States with this aid bill that can be withdrawn by the American administration unless the Secretary of State of the United States certifies, before each instalment is provided to this government, that all the conditions attached with the disbursement of this money have been faithfully adhered to by the government of Pakistan. At the same time the critics of this bill feel that the government of Pakistan should have taken a firm stand with the Americans who have no choice at the present point in time but to support the Pakistani administration, which is fighting as a frontline state against the war on terror. While the Americans may have been dictated by their strategic interests in this region, they have successfully negotiated conditions that will allow them to maintain a stranglehold on issues that may in the long run compromise the sovereign status of this country. There is no doubt that the Pakistanis who have been looking after millions of Afghan refugees displaced during the Russian occupation of that country and once again now that they under the subjugation of NATO forces, has forced them to spend a fortune out of their meagre resources. On the other hand, the Americans are also aware of the fact that drug money and Indian help in the form of financial assistance and provision of arms and ammunition were helping to sustain the insurgency in large areas of NWFP and some areas of Balochistan. This has created serious difficulties for the government of Pakistan and its security forces to cope with the situation single handedly. This has to some extent forced the American administration to spearhead a campaign that would allow the Pakistanis to keep on fighting the war against terrorism which has a potential of spilling over its borders and enveloping other countries. Certain elements in the Pakistani administration were now insisting that the conditions attached with the Kerry-Lugar Bill were the decision of the American administration and that the government of Pakistan was not taken into confidence by the Americans. If this was to be believed then it would mean a serious failing of the foreign office that at least knew that the Americans were in the process of passing the piece of legislation which will have some consequences on Pak-US relations. They also knew that an intense debate was being carried out in the US senate and the relevant house committees that fairly laid out the proposals that were under discussion. The media in the United States also highlighted some of the reasons behind the attachment of stringent conditions by the United States, before they agreed to provide financial assistance to this cash strapped country. Even the US ambassador in Pakistan, in some of her statements, tried to justify the imposition of conditions that were unprecedented even by American standards, accusing the administration of General Pervez Musharraf of misusing some American funds. The statements by the ex-dictator that some of the military assistance received by the government of Pakistan in its efforts against the war on terror was diverted on the borders with India may have strengthened the American belief that General Musharraf indeed diverted funds meant for the war against terror to its eastern borders. However, the Americans have for some years now formulated a policy of appeasing the Indians even if it is at the cost of some strategic interest of the American government. The recent signing of the civil nuclear agreement with India is one glaring example of American partisanship that goes against the interest of the Pakistani people. Therefore it can be safely assumed that the conditions attached by the Americans while providing economic assistance to this country is another attempt to please their newfound friends in India. Keeping in view these aspects of the emerging strategic interests of the Americans and the amount of leverage that is now available with the Russians, the Chinese and the Islamic bloc, it would be appropriate if the government of Pakistan tries to reassess these new trends and formulates a policy that allows it more manoeuvrability that will help to safeguard its national interests. In case the foreign ministry fails to assess the requirements of this country in a realistic manner and continues to act as a foreigners' office, the government and people of Pakistan will come under increased pressure not only economically but may also pay an exorbitant price in other vital fields. As far as the Kerry-Lugar Bill is concerned, it would be advisable for Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani to try to renegotiate some of the strings that have been attached with the financial assistance and try to convince the American administrators that aid that can be withheld on flimsy grounds by the Americans may not be acceptable to the people of this country. They must tell the Americans in plain words that instead of seeking a certificate from the Secretary of State it would be more appropriate if they receive a certificate from the Prime Minister of this country that the financial aid received by the government of Pakistan was money well spent and it was not misused as they suspected on some previous occasions. The Americans must also be informed that the financial burden incurred by the Pakistanis of feeding Afghan refugees and the cost of fighting the insurgency in some areas of NWFP and Balochistan was a liability that squarely fell on American shoulders because the Pakistani government was caught in a situation that was the creation of the Americans; and therefore it was time that the American administration accepted that responsibility and paid up for this financial burden that has resulted in the crippling of Pakistan's fragile economy. The writer is a freelance columnist. E-mail: