Mi­nus-Pak­istan for­mula?

The Miracle - - Local/Pakistan - www.dawn.com/news

An un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally stern re­sponse by the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s so­called South Asia strat­egy is a wor­ry­ing in­di­ca­tion of the strate­gic chasm be­tween Pak­istan and the US. With words and phrases such as “out­rightly re­jected”, “scape­goat”, “grave chal­lenge”, “Afghan war can­not be fought in Pak­istan” and “In­dia can­not be a net provider of se­cu­rity” sprin­kled across the state­ment, the NSC has con­veyed its un­hap­pi­ness, per­haps even alarm, at the Trump strat­egy. Nom­i­nally headed by the prime min­is­ter, the over­whelm­ing mil­i­tary pres­ence at yes­ter­day’s meet­ing sug­gests that the state­ment is a true re­flec­tion of the na­tional se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus’s grave con­cerns. Pak­istan’s con­cerns over the Trump strat­egy are un­sur­pris­ing; the strat­egy has al­most uni­ver­sally been declared to be un­re­al­is­tic and flawed. From the NSC re­sponse, two key con­cerns of Pak­istan can be gleaned. First, the Trump strat­egy ap­pears to be an en­dorse­ment of per­pet­ual war in Afghanistan, when it has long been clear that only “a po­lit­i­cally ne­go­ti­ated out­come”, in the NSC’s words, can work. Sec­ond, the so-called South Asia strat­egy puts the onus on Pak­istan to act with­out of­fer­ing to ad­dress any of this coun­try’s re­gional se­cu­rity con­cerns. Specif­i­cally, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s si­lence on anti-Pak­istan mil­i­tant sanc­tu­ar­ies in east­ern Afghanistan and its en­cour­age­ment of In­dia to play a greater role in Afghanistan amount to a puz­zling dis­re­gard of Pak­istan’s con­cerns. Why is Pak­istan ex­pected to act first to ad­vance other pow­ers’ in­ter­ests and only then its own? Merely la­belling some­thing a South Asia strat­egy does not au­to­mat­i­cally make it so. In­deed, it is Pak­istan that ap­pears to be seek­ing a true re­gional so­lu­tion with its ar­tic­u­la­tion of spe­cific con­cerns, while the US ap­proach amounts to some­thing akin to a mi­nus-Pak­istan for­mula for peace. Be­cause the US ap­proach is wildly un­re­al­is­tic, it is also dan­ger­ous. Nev­er­the­less, Pak­istan must strive to avoid a strate­gic col­li­sion with the world’s only su­per­power. The US pres­i­dent’s ob­vi­ous dis­com­fort with a U-turn from his cam­paign pledge to ex­tri­cate the US from Afghanistan presents an op­por­tu­nity. A true re­gional ap­proach to the Afghan ques­tion nec­es­sar­ily in­cludes Iran, China and Rus­sia, coun­tries that Mr Trump all but ig­nored in his strat­egy. For Pak­istan, the chal­lenge will be to pull to­gether the diplo­matic heft of those coun­tries to cob­ble to­gether a rea­son­able alternative to America’s lat­est ap­proach. Re­gional ought to mean re­gional a path to peace that al­lows Afghanistan peace and sta­bil­ity and bal­ances the in­ter­ests of out­side pow­ers in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity. Surely, help­ing de­velop a re­gional con­sen­sus and en­cour­ag­ing the US to re­con­sider its own flawed ap­proach is a bet­ter alternative than the dis­mal pos­si­bil­ity of end­less war in Afghanistan and the sev­er­ing of even a trans­ac­tional re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pak­istan and the US.

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