“Are we going to be the 52nd state of the U.S.?” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters in Islamabad. “Is the world’s seventh nuclear power so weak that it can’t keep four helicopters from breaking the country’s sovereignty?”
Chamberlin, who currently serves as the president of the Middle East Institute in Washington, said relations between the two countries were “at a crisis point” that would only improve if Pakistani leaders toned down their criticism of the U.S., pointing out that American drones had killed numerous high-ranking militants who regularly targeted Pakistani civilians.
“They need to start to change the narrative,” she said. “We can’t give them this kind of $3 billion a year and get this kind of crap in response.”
But persuading Pakistanis to abandon their long-held mistrust of the U.S. is certain to be easier said than done. During a trip to Pakistan last summer, Defense Secretary Robert Gates faced hostile questioning from a journalist from the country’s Express 24/7 television station, Quatrina Hosain, who said conspiracy theories about U.S. plots to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons had taken "on the hue or the coloring of being real" because the American government hadn't formally shot them down. Gates told her there were no such plans and that rumors to the contrary were "all nonsense."
But the questions didn’t go away then. The day after his TV interview, Gates told a crowd of stony-faced senior Pakistani military officers at the country’s National Defence University that the he wanted to tell them “definitively” that the U.S. had “no desire to control Pakistan's nuclear weapons.” Several of the officers shook their heads or rolled their eyes at the remark. With the U.S. demonstrating an ability to do precisely what those officers most feared—easily penetrate their country’s allegedly sophisticated defenses without being spotted—the conspiracy theories about alleged American designs on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons won’t disappear anytime soon.
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