Plan­ning for the End Game

Southasia - - Comment - Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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.

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