Los­ing an old ally?

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - S Qa­mar Afzal Rizvi Email:rizvipeac­ere­searcher@gmail.com

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.

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