Planning for the End Game
While politics and international relations is by and large a man’s turf, there are two women who have come to the fore quite prominently in recent times, one driving home the desires and determination of a key South Asian nation and the other accentuating a superpower’s stakes in the region.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has stated quite clearly that her country expects nothing but peace from its neighbors but will not accept India’s supremacy in the region. She has said that through the pursuance of an effective foreign policy, Pakistan will maintain its strategic importance. Ms. Khar’s statement came in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s wish, expressed during her recent visit to India, that the country should play a more assertive role in Asia. “This is not a time when any of us can afford to look inward at the expense of looking outward,” she said. “This is a time to seize the emerging opportunities of the 21st century. This is a time to lead.” Ms. Khar’s comment was: “Pakistan is a strategically important country and no one, including the US, China or even India, want to play down its role. Thus, we should remain positive.” She further underscored Pakistan’s stance when, on arrival in New Delhi for talks with her counterpart, she stated that Pakistan sought a sustained and meaningful dialogue with India.
In the context of Pakistan-U.S. relations, Hina Rabbani has said that she and the U.S. Secretary of State agree that the two countries need to get back on track. “Pakistan and US have an important relationship and it is in our best national interest to continue an important working relationship with the US,” she said. The Pakistani foreign minister is right when she says that the two countries have strategic convergence despite the fact that a difference of opinion has arisen on Pakistan’s operational issues.
It is obvious though that Washington has placed the legacy of its strategic ties with Pakistan on the back burner. It has shifted gears and is treating Pakistan merely as a transactional partner while it continues to actively court India, which it regards as a natural ally because of their purportedly shared belief in democracy, human rights and market-oriented economic policies. However, the new U.S. approach of consistently lionizing India could very well backfire, as many U.S. analysts have pointed out. Relations between the two long-term ‘allies’ – Pakistan and the U.S. - are already at the lowest ebb. The U.S. has suspended $800m worth of military aid to Pakistan while people like Mike Mullen and Leon Panetta have not been very kind in their enunciations in recent days with respect to the Pakistani government and military. The question to ask is that as America prepares for the end game in Afghanistan, is it also planning to leave Pakistan out in the cold? It has done this before and it appears that with its newly found love for India, it will do it again and will not pay much heed to the whole string of problems that it will leave behind for this hapless country.