Changing relations and new alliances

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(Image Source: The News)

By Yasmeen Aftab Ali

The writing was on the wall.

Pentagon refused to pay Pakistan military $300 in military reimbursements. This followed when US secretary of Defence Ash Carter informed Congress of Pakistan’s failure to take steps against Haqqani network. This fund comes under CSF. “Pakistan rejects harbouring militants but says there are limits to how much it can do as it is already fighting multiple Islamist groups and is wary of a “blowback” in the form of more militant attacks on its soil.” (Livemint)

John McCain has earlier been quoted in the following words in a leading national English daily newspaper, “If Pakistan does not stop supporting the Haqqani network, the United States should change its ‘behaviour’ towards the Pakistani nation,” visiting to Islamabad recently from Kabul.

“We have made it very clear that we expect they (Pakistan) will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organisations. If they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation.”(Extract from press briefing in Islamabad)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg too recently issued a stern warning, “It is absolutely unacceptable that a country provides sanctuary to terrorist groups which are responsible for terrorist attacks inside another country.”

Though many in Pakistan are of the view that US cannot change because it ‘needs’ Pakistan in Afghanistan, nothing can be further from truth. In international relations if anything is certain is the uncertainty of relationships.

Many lobbies in US have been actively working towards the estrangement for years which may bear fruit under Trump’s America.

A new world order is evolving. Old alliances are breaking or at least allies are drifting apart towards new allies. New economic and regional strategies are driving the new political order. The new alliances at many points will overlap with old alliances. Politics is not only driven by regional and international outreach but also by economics.

Pakistan has moved closer to China and Russia. There is a fear of ISIS operating in Afghanistan. There is also a fear that US may use ISIS as a proxy in Afghanistan. Some reports point towards fighters in large numbers moving to Afghanistan from Syria spelling further destabilisation in Afghanistan leading inevitably to a spill over effect in Pakistan. The ISIS fighters in Afghanistan will help China stay on a back foot and counter a reviving Russia.

China and Russia support Pakistan’s stance in a suggested solution to Afghanistan. There was an understanding between the trio to work towards moving certain Taliban members off the sanction list of UN to be able to engineer an all-inclusive negotiated settlement between Taliban and Kabul. A suggestion that was rejected by Washington. Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, killed by a drone strike, strongly supported this as an initiative to bring those not supportive in his group around in order to broker a peace agreement.

On the other hand a nexus is forming between India, US and Israel. The latter two have historically enjoyed good relations. The latest Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that becomes effective in 2018 will give Israel $3.9 billion a year in military aid for 10 years (2016). Since in office, Modi has focused sharply on foreign policy and India has grown close to both US and Israel. Though New Delhi’s strong economic relations with Tehran are a thorn in the side.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel recently cementing a relationship. Israel always on lookout for new business partners has hailed the visit. A point of great interest for Israelis was that Modi showed no inclination to visit Ramallah to meet Palestinian leaders as is the norm of dignitaries visiting from foreign shores.

Israel being a major supplier of defence equipment and India a major buyer of the same. Over approximately $1 billion a year is the deal between both countries. Iran’s reaction has been sharp; Ayatollah Khamenei on Monday urged his country’s judiciary to extend support to “oppressed” Muslims in Kashmir. One is reminded of the well-known saying, “Politics make strange bed fellows.”

India’s new closeness with US is watched with great unease by Islamabad especially because of India’s growing space in Afghanistan. Pakistan needs to engage with the US specifically on Afghanistan issue. PM Nawaz has recently issued a policy statement to this end, it is based on peaceful relations with neighbours especially Afghanistan and deeper ties with the US. This needs to be followed up by a team of two diplomats (preferably those with hands on knowledge of Afghanistan; Former Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Aziz-ud-din’s name comes to mind) to start a dialogue with Afghanistan on multifaceted issues. Pakistan should also make use of SCO platform to engage other member states for peace process in Afghanistan.

To what degree will India be interested in militarily being engaged in Afghanistan at the cost of her relationship with Russia poses an interesting question.  USA needs to understand Pakistan’s concerns and only then can expect Pakistan’s full co-operation. One cannot treat another as a ‘lesser ally’.  There are two sides to every issue. No solution can be arrived at if only one side is focused on.

US must revisit its policy towards Afghanistan- but not the way it is doing.

More important: Pakistan must develop her strategy in light of changing scenario.

End Note: “You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” (Malcolm X, By Any Means Necessary)

YA

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

This article was originally posted in Pakistan Today

 

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