Pak­istan’s New Di­rec­tion

Southasia - - COMMENT -

In the back­drop of the in­tensely grow­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pak­istan and China, there has been a ma­jor devel­op­ment in U.S.-In­dia se­cu­rity re­la­tions, re­sult­ing in the sign­ing of the long-an­tic­i­pated Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment (LEMOA). The Agree­ment fa­cil­i­tates the pro­vi­sion of lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port, sup­plies and ser­vices be­tween the U.S. and In­dian mil­i­taries on a re­im­bursable ba­sis and in­cor­po­rates a frame­work to gov­ern the ar­range­ment. LEMOA would help both coun­tries in mon­i­tor­ing the use of each others’ land, air and naval bases for re­pair and re­sup­ply and would be a step for­ward in build­ing mu­tual de­fence ties as both coun­tries seek to counter the grow­ing mar­itime as­sertive­ness of China. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that a week be­fore the sign­ing of the LEMOA, Forbes magazine had warned China and Pak­istan that In­dia and the U.S. were about to sign a ma­jor pact. The fact that the magazine de­scribed the US-In­dia agree­ment as ‘a ma­jor pact’ was preg­nant with mean­ing. Com­ment­ing on the agree­ment, US me­dia noted that it was a key com­po­nent of the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy to con­tain China, which would fur­ther spread its in­flu­ence across Asia by de­ploy­ing 60 per cent of its sur­face ships in the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion in the near fu­ture. The me­dia re­ports also pointed out that un­like Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US had to build ev­ery­thing from scratch, In­dia al­ready had the mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties the United States could use when needed.

The ad­vi­sor on for­eign af­fairs to Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter, Sar­taj Aziz, said, “The U.S. ap­proaches Pak­istan when­ever it needs it, and aban­dons it when it doesn't.” He also said, “We firmly con­veyed it to the U.S. that main­tain­ing ef­fec­tive nu­clear de­ter­rence is crit­i­cal for Pak­istan's se­cu­rity and only Pak­istan it­self can de­ter­mine how it should re­spond to grow­ing strate­gic im­bal­ance in South Asia." The mas­sive ex­pan­sion of US-In­dia mil­i­tary ties will def­i­nitely im­pact both Pak­istan and China and may draw ac­tions on their part which could fur­ther es­ca­late the mil­i­tary bal­ance in the re­gion. At the same time, there is no deny­ing the fact that Pak­istan has dis­mally failed to put in or­der its for­eign of­fice so that it can more ef­fec­tively tackle such devel­op­ments as LEMOA and many other sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions. In fact, the ques­tion of In­dia’s en­try into the NSG will again raise its ugly head very soon, as the U.S. will now feel more con­fi­dent in mak­ing an­other at­tempt of sup­port­ing In­dia. The pity is that the demo­cratic gov­ern­ment in Pak­istan is still with­out a full-time for­eign min­is­ter which has im­pacted the coun­try’s out­look in many sticky sit­u­a­tions per­tain­ing to for­eign re­la­tions.

The newly de­vel­op­ing ties be­tween the U.S. and In­dia are seen as a for­eign pol­icy suc­cess of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. It is now be­com­ing clear that Amer­ica re­gards In­dia as an im­por­tant counter-bal­ance to China. Pak­istan has been ig­nored in the en­tire equa­tion and the U.S. is giv­ing much more weight to In­dia as the big­ger power in the re­gion. Pak­istan should, there­fore, take this op­por­tu­nity to get all the more close to China and pro­vide it ev­ery­thing that is pos­si­ble in terms of co­op­er­a­tion and sup­port for CPEC. The coun­try should also ex­pand its mil­i­tary and tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion with the Cen­tral Asia Re­publics and there should be a re­newed fo­cus on ex­changes with these coun­tries. So far Pak­istan’s main in­ter­est has been in the eco­nomic and en­ergy area but now re­gional se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity must be a part of the agenda. By boost­ing its mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with the CAR na­tions, Pak­istan could min­i­mize In­dia's re­gional role be­cause the Cen­tral Asian States are not back­ward coun­tries any­more and are much ad­vanced in terms of ed­u­ca­tion, in­fra­struc­ture, stan­dard of life, gen­der rights, etc. On the US front, the Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment (LEMOA) is like a wakeup call for Pak­istan. In­stead of just look­ing to­wards the U.S. for aid in var­i­ous ar­eas, it needs to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the emerg­ing re­al­i­ties nearer to home. Be­ing a part of CPEC is very much a logical di­rec­tion for this South Asian power to take. Af­ter all, it is the world’s sixth largest coun­try and has one of the best stand­ing armies. It must take full ad­van­tage of its pos­i­tive points and, by fur­ther lever­ag­ing its re­la­tion­ship with China, it must be­come an im­por­tant player in the re­gion.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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