Pak­istan’s geopo­lit­i­cal im­broglio

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Hu­daa Khalid Email: hu­daakhalid@gmail.com

PAK­ISTAN lies at the cross­roads of South Asia, Cen­tral and West Asia and has bor­ders with hos­tile neigh­bours like In­dia and Afghanistan. This lo­ca­tion is strate­gi­cally unique and holds tremen­dous value. It has been cen­tre of at­ten­tion of dif­fer­ent ma­jor pow­ers at dif­fer­ent times in its 69 year his­tory. Such strate­gic po­si­tion brings along added dis­ad­van­tages like plague of trans-na­tional ter­ror­ism em­a­nat­ing from both Eastern and West­ern fronts.

Any tur­moil in Afghanistan has al­ways spilled over to Pak­istan and would per­sist till the por­ous bor­der is guarded. Pak­istan has been ad­vo­cat­ing an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. This is very im­por­tant to un­der­stand since an ex­ter­nally im­posed peace process merely alien­ates the stake­hold­ers from the main­stream. In­clud­ing cer­tain eth­nic­i­ties and ex­clud­ing oth­ers goes against the peace ef­forts. The death of Mul­lah Akhtar Man­soor has cre­ated new uncer­tain­ties and blurred the fu­ture prospects re­gard­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. The US needs to elu­ci­date its po­si­tion as to what is the way for­ward, at one hand it ad­vo­cates talks un­der the Quadri­lat­eral Co­or­di­na­tion Group (QCG); while on the other hand shows mis­trust to­wards Pak­istan. Talks are the only vi­able op­tion when mil­i­tary means to re­solve con­flict have been ex­hausted. The fail­ure of talks is a night­mare for Pak­istan, as it had been fac­ing the con­se­quences of Afghan con­flict for over three decades. All four part­ners un­der Quadri­lat­eral Co­or­di­na­tion Group (QCG) need to speed up their ef­forts rather than just de­mand­ing Pak­istan to do more.

The role of ex­ter­nal forces in Balochis­tan and the need for in­su­la­tion from them is yet an­other dilemma. The cap­tur­ing of RAW’s agent speaks vol­umes about the sub­ver­sive In­dian ac­tiv­i­ties. This makes an al­lu­sion to en­tan­gling Pak­istan from both fronts and alien­at­ing it from re­gional arena. In­dia, Iran and Afghanistan have re­cently signed a tri­par­tite agree­ment to turn the Ira­nian Chaba­har Port into a tran­sit hub. This holds the po­ten­tial to limit Pak­istan’s role in al­low­ing trade routes to land-locked coun­tries of Cen­tral Asia. How­ever, both should op­er­ate as com­ple­men­tary eco­nomic cen­tres, as has al­ready been pro­claimed by the Pak­istani lead­ers and en­dorsed and ap­pre­ci­ated by Ira­nian brethren.

Chal­lenges em­a­nat­ing from In­dia are per­sis­tent. The closer Indo-US al­liance has sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions for Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity. With all the tech­no­log­i­cal and mil­i­tary doors open, In­dia has pro­cured weapons worth $100 bil­lion. This is a du­plic­ity in US pol­icy, on one side it arms In­dia and on other side asks Pak­istan to make uni­lat­eral con­ces­sions to In­dia. US has posed dis­crim­i­na­tory re­straints on Pak­istan’s ac­qui­si­tion of dual-use tech­nolo­gies and weapons. The US congress en­dorsed block­ing $450 mil­lion of mil­i­tary aid along­side stop­ping sub­si­dized sale of eight F-16s to Pak­istan. More­over, the US Drone Strike car­ried out in Balochis­tan also vi­o­lates Pak­istan’s sovereignty and is detri­men­tal to re­gional sta­bil­ity. All this con­trib­utes to the pit­fall in Pak­istan-US re­la­tions when the only con­verg­ing in­ter­est of both over Afghanistan and coun­tert­er­ror­ism is also de­plet­ing.

The com­pet­i­tive na­ture of in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics also af­fects us gravely and thus Pak­istan’s re­la­tion­ship with China is piv­otal. The US con­tain­ment of China by arm­ing In­dia should be em­u­lated in Pak-China re­la­tions, lat­ter shar­ing its ad­vanced weaponry. Pak­istan got full mem­ber­ship of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCO) in 2015, which can en­sure greater ac­cess to re­sources and en­ergy projects. It will strengthen our re­gional po­si­tion on a num­ber of is­sues from mil­i­tary to tech­no­log­i­cal means. It also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to take re­la­tions with Rus­sia to a higher level. It holds room for diplo­matic and mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion at a time when Rus­sia it­self is dis­pleased with bur­geon­ing Indo-US ties.

Pak­istan’s sup­port and co­op­er­a­tion is indis­pens­able in bring­ing about re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity. From com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism to bring­ing peace in Afghanistan, Pak­istan’s role is vi­tal. All the afore­men­tioned op­por­tu­ni­ties will be trans­lated into tan­gi­ble achieve­ments in short span of time. Projects like CPEC will be­come game changer in the re­gion while adding eco­nomic sta­bil­ity to Pak­istan. Per­haps then only ex­ter­nal pow­ers would rec­og­nize the strength of Pak­istan and the role it played in com­bat­ing the men­ace of ter­ror­ism in the re­gion. — The writer is an in­tern at Is­lam­abad Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute, a think tank based in Is­lam­abad.

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