Lessening Dependency

The arrogant cum undiplomatic tone of Trump administration high-ups’ is distressing Islamabad. Instead of realizing Pakistan’s limitations and appreciating sacrifices in the war on terrorism, they are repeating their unjustifiable allegations and demands. It seems, they are either frustrated or ignorant of the current situation in Afghanistan, thus exposing ineffectiveness of the US-led NATO alliance in Afghanistan.

Since the announcement of President Trump’s South Asian policy, the government of Pakistan has been assuring the people of Pakistan that it is able to guard and pursue the national interest of the country without the support of United States. On August 21, 2017, President Trump strongly criticized Pakistan. He accused Pakistan for providing “safe havens to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.”

Although, Islamabad was seriously disturbed by the accusation of President Trump, yet its response was very mature. It realizes the casual disregard of its intensive counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts by Trump administration is neither in the interest of United States nor Pakistan.

Thus, the absurd Trump South Asia policy did not affect its National Action Plan. Precisely, Islamabad continues its zero-tolerance approach towards terrorist and militant groups. Pakistani armed forces heroic military operations against the transnational terrorist groups have not only restored the writ of the state in the Federal Administrative Tribal Areas, but they are also unearthing and arresting terrorist facilitators residing in the urban centres of Pakistan.

The fencing of Afghanistan-Pakistan border disturbs a few Afghan groups, which are involved in illegal trade. These groups’ reaction occasionally hinders Pakistan and Afghanistan legal trade, but fails in denting the resolve of government of Pakistan to manage border security.

While openly questioning the Americans’ coercive strategy, the government of Pakistan expressed serious concerns over Indian role in Afghanistan affairs. At the same time, Islamabad assured Washington to address its genuine concerns. The former firmly believe that Indian role in Afghanistan is destabilizing and threatening Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. In fact, the Indian intelligence agency RAW in collusion with Afghan national intelligence agency is using the Afghan territory for carrying out terrorist activities inside Pakistan.

Pakistan’s diplomatic response towards Trump policy was very calculated. Immediately, it announced the postponement of the then scheduled bilateral meetings between both states high-ups; however, restored within a few weeks. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbas met US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2017.

The meeting resumed both states high ups diplomatic engagement. For instance, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Washington. It generated cautious optimism about the practical engagement between both states.

Pakistan’s indigenous nuclear weapons capability enables it to deter its arch-rival Indian aggression without external support. The addition of tactical nuclear weapons in its arsenal have enhanced its armed forces confidence and checked Indian Cold Start Doctrine.

The development of a sovereign defence capability is a big relief for Pakistan. On October 8, 2017, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbas stated, “the days of Pakistan depending on the US to meet its military and other requirements are over.”

He added, “We have major US weapons systems in our military, but we’ve also diversified. We have Chinese and European systems. Recently, for the first time we inducted Russian attack helicopters.” The decreasing dependency on the American military hardware seems a blessing for Pakistani armed forces.

Ironically, since a few years, Washington’s South Asia policy is immensely influenced by New Delhi. It is very irritating for Islamabad. Premier Abbasi opined that United States could treat Pakistan as an independent actor in its South Asian policy.

He asserted “We don’t believe that injecting India into the Pakistan-US relationship will help resolve anything, especially in Afghanistan, where we don’t see any role for India. India has a relationship with the US. That is between them and the US.” Certainly, assigning India a greater role in Afghanistan undermines Pakistan’s national security.

To conclude, Islamabad ought to avoid a hard-line approach against Washington despite the latter coercive strategy and collusion with India. However, it does not mean to compromise on its national interest. Hence, Islamabad needs to chalk out an intelligent-cum-rational policy towards the United States.

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About Dr. Zafar N Jaspal 13 Articles
The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad & Member Advisory Board at ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).