Losing an old ally?
take into account when shaping its regional strategy. Pakistan seeks to protect its ‘national integrity’ against any potential (read: Indian) threat, move toward strategic parity with India on the global stage, prevent the entrenchment of a New-Delhi friendly regime in Afghanistan, and seek a favourable resolution to the Kashmir issue.
From a Pakistani perspective, the US has spent the last decade offering Pakistan things of ‘second order’ importance, such as cash and military supplies, while demanding in return offerings of ‘first order’ importance, including changes in how Pakistan protects its sovereignty and defines its strategic interests. But compelled by the thinking, that this strategy could not go further, the Pakistani policy strategists began to review the US policy. That is why they view that the US current demands—regarding Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons, Haqqani network, and Dr ShahidAfridi, being linked to Pakistan’s security— cannot be accepted.
While Washington’s growing unqualified support— of India in regard to Washington’s full backing of India’s NSG bid; the penetrating Indian role in Afghanistan; and US’s mysterious silence over Raw’s subversive role against Pakistan — has created an ‘uncomfortable feeling’ in Pakistan’s security establishment whose thinking has been that Pakistan is a ‘front line state’ in the US-imposed war on terror; yet instead of upholding Pakistan’s security interests, the US has become a party with India. The US. Congressional current moves have also ‘upped the ante’.
Paradoxically, a devil’s advocacy, driven by the US-India interwoven interests, argues that a strategy of ‘containment’ is the United States’ best option towards Pakistan. The proponents of this US policy makers, being highly worrisome about the CPEC, advocate that US relations with Pakistan should be premised on the understanding that Pakistan is a’ hostile state’, rather than an ally or a partner. Though it should continue to provide Pakistan with modest assistance in such areas as basic health care, gender equality, and primary and occupational education, it must delink that help from the failed counterterrorism programs with which many such human development programs are currently bundled.
As for Pakistan, this tricky and illengineered US strategy – which is full of ‘cross-currents and divergent interests’—cannot deter the ‘evolving challenges’ of regional security and peace that are posed by the ISIS/Daesh elements. This policy, which negates PakUS counter-terrorism cooperation, breeds learnable caveats.
One fact is irrefutable: The US and Afghanistan have known for years that peace will not be possible unless the Pakistani military wants to make it happen. The army command is almost solely responsible for the country’s national security. The military holds the key to Afghan stability, since it would be the key interlocutor in any peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban. The demands chartered by the Pak army chief, that USA must take action against the Tahreek Taliban Pakistan(TTP) and the Fazullah group in Afghanistan, are quite justified.
Given the cost-benefit analysis of Pak-US counter-terrorism cooperation, it fairly appears that Pakistan has paid much greater price — than the US –with regard to the loss of valuable lives of its military soldiers, its painful compromise on its sovereignty, and most significantly the challenges it has to confront regarding its ‘internal and external security’. What Pakistan expects is ‘true realisation and genuine partnership’ from Washington, not twisting trajectories. What US needs to understand is the fact that bilateralism always protects ‘mutual interests’, not ‘unilateral interests’.
US Senator Cardin, while widening the debate about the US-Pak relationship, noted that the US had made a decision several decades ago to have a more strategic relationship with Pakistan. “We have many issues with what Pakistan does, but we have a strategic partnership that’s critically important to our counter-terrorism activities,” he said. “As a result, there are economic issues between our two countries, including military issues that advance US interest.”
Put objectively, under the ongoing South Asian environment, it appears that it would be in the strategic interest of the US to keep good relations with both Pakistan and India. In this regard while India may be useful to the US in Asia Pacific, Indian Ocean and other parts of the world, as a friend, Pakistan will be significant for the US for keeping peace and stability in Afghanistan, Central Asia, Middle East, Persian Gulf and even Far East (being close friend of China), as also propounded by a renowned US scholar Danial Murkay in his book titled, “No Exit from Pakistan”.
By any rules of pragmatism, US cannot afford to lose Pakistan simply because it cannot negate its own agenda of ‘counter extremism and counter terrorism’. US has to apply a policy of ‘strategic balance’ not diversion. As for now, to protect its national interests first, remains Pakistan’s ‘policy crescendo’. Though this truth is hard to swallow, US has to accept this reality. If it does, the result will be better for Pakistanis, better for US interests in South Asia, and better for anyone interested in a Pakistan at peace with itself and its ‘neighbors’. — The writer is an independent ‘IR’ researcher based in Karachi.