Pakistan’s New Direction
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