JAVID HUSAIN Pakistan-US strategic dialogue has just ended in Washington with tall claims by our government about its success in persuading the US to increase assistance to Pakistan in various fields and to be mindful of its strategic interests in the region, in particular in Afghanistan. While the coming weeks and months will show how far these promises by Washington are translated into reality, the joint statement issued at the end of the strategic dialogue does mention the determination of the two countries to broaden and deepen their comprehensive cooperation for which purpose a Policy Steering Group has been established. It also reaffirms that a stable, enduring and broad-based cooperative partnership is in the fundamental interests of both countries. The determination to deal effectively with terrorism has been reiterated. Finally, the joint statement mentions that the two sides exchanged views on regional and global issues and reiterated the importance of advancing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. Significantly, the joint statement does not make any reference to Pakistan-US cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear technology. The joint statement is typical of the client relationship that Pakistan has developed over the past several decades with the US in which our government is in a perpetual begging posture. It seems that the present Pakistani government not only wants to continue that relationship but also plans to deepen it. The conduct of a dignified foreign policy aimed at safeguarding national honour and interests presupposes a national policy of self-reliance. Unfortunately, our ruling elite belonging to both the civilian and military sides have instead developed the art of begging bowl diplomacy based on the premise of enduring dependence on charity and assistance by foreign countries. It seems from the way we kowtow to visiting dignitaries from the US and other western countries or the way we demean ourselves by seeking foreign assistance, for each and every problem that we are facing, that the notions of national honour and dignity have become alien to our political leaders and establishment. At the mere mention of any serious problem confronting the nation, our leaders and senior officials are ready to take the next flight to Washington or some other capital (preferably western) for assistance in resolving it. Rarely, if at all, one hears our leaders expressing the resolve to come to grips with the challenges facing us through our own efforts. If it is the energy crisis, which admittedly is the direct result of the mismanagement of the econ-omy by the Musharraf-Shaukat Aziz regime, the current leadership over the past two years has aggravated it through its incompetence compounded by alleged corruption. Consequently it has failed to fulfil the solemn commitments made to the nation for ending the menace of loadshedding which has wrecked our industry and brought daily misery to the common man. The government is apparently now in search of an easy and imported solution as reflected in the Pakistan-US join statement issued on March 25 in which the US has promised to assist Pakistan in overcoming the energy crisis. One does not see any sign of our governments determination to work out an efficient plan to deal with this crisis and implement it with a high sense of integrity and honesty. Instead the nation is being fed the daily diet of false promises based on wishful thinking rather than sound planning. The same is true of the water problem. Since Tarbela we have not made any large dam to store river water for irrigation and electricity generation purposes while the storage capacity of Tarbela and Mangla dams has gradually declined due to silting. The resultant shortage carries the seeds of another serious crisis which may threaten the very economic survival and development of the country. Again instead of coming to grips with the problem through a well-considered plan aimed at efficient management of our water resources, our instinctive reaction is to rush to Washington for a solution. These are just the latest two examples of our national tendency to find solutions for our economic and even political problems in foreign capitals rather than in our own efforts. Our leaders do not feel any sense of shame in discussing our internal political problems with foreign leaders and officials and seeking their advice on those issues. We are all aware of the role played by foreign powers in arranging the transition from Musharrafs dictatorial rule to the current democratic dispensation. The spectacle was another evidence of the political bankruptcy of our ruling classes. By now this tendency of excessive reliance on foreign countries for the solution of our political, economic and security problems has almost become a national malady sapping our indigenous nation building and problem solving capacity. History is a witness that no nation has prospered through excessive reliance on external support. Nations which have acquired a respectable place in the comity of nations on an enduring basis have done so through reliance on their own resources and efforts. Admittedly Pakistan or any other nation cannot conduct its affairs in a vacuum, especially in this era of globalisation marked by close international political, security and economic linkages. We must, therefore, pursue a pro-active foreign policy to promote our national interests. In this context, the importance of our relations with the United States, the most powerful nation in the world right now, cannot be denied. We must pay the utmost attention to our vital relationship with the US so as to promote bilateral cooperation in various fields and safeguard our national security and economic interests in the region and at the global level. For instance, Pakistan and the US need to cooperate with each other for the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of foreign troops from that country. This cooperation is also required for the protection of Pakistans legitimate interests in Afghanistan. A broad-based, enduring and stable strategic partnership with the US as mentioned in the joint statement is, therefore, the need of the hour. However, this partnership must be based on sovereign equality and mutual respect. And no nation can win the respect of another nation by holding constantly a begging bowl in its hands. Excessive dependence inevitably results in the compromise by the client state of its national interests and honour. We must, therefore, learn to rely on our own efforts and resources for managing our domestic and external affairs. This, of course, presupposes a national programme of austerity and a simple style of life on the part of leaders and the elite. Our cooperation with foreign countries and multilateral institutions can make an important contribution to the success of our efforts but it cannot be their substitute. Unfortunately, this simple but vital truth has not fully sunk into our national consciousness thereby prolonging our dependence on foreign powers, robbing us of the possibility of fully developing our national potential and denying us a respectable place in the international community. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com