Bolton vs Bajwa’s pragmatic approach

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Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

WITH the appointment of John Bolton as US National Security Advisor (NSA) who replaced H R McMaster, the International Relations experts have chartered apprehensions that Bolton will adopt some tough policy lines towards N Korea, Iran and Pakistan. As for Pakistan, a resonance of misconception is heard in the Western policy circles regarding Gen Bajwa’s approach: “The Pakistani military has done more than enough’’. Yet conversely to these speculations, it may be pragmatically argued that John Bolton will adopt a cautionary policy line towards Pakistan simply because a divided Trump’s administration cannot afford to turn Pak-US relationship into a more complex mode.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who opposed withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Bolton drafted a five-page memo detailing his proposal for tearing up the deal, which he then published in National Review after Bannon departed the White House. The Iranian Council called Mr Bolton a “supporter of terrorists”, focusing on past statements of support for the Mujahideen-i-Khalq (MEK), an exiled opposition group that backs the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. North Korea has yet to react but the government there once called John Bolton “human scum” “This is worrisome news,” the head of the national defence committee of South Korea’s parliament told Reuters news agency, expressing fears that US-North Korea talks could be scuppered Iran’s Guardian .
Whether Bolton— whose hiring requires no US Senate confirmation, who was US ambassador to the United Nations for Bush, will be able to swallow his own views— has been debated by foreign policy experts since he appeared on Trump’s radar. Some analysts assess that Bolton is not the kind who will spoil for a war in Iran for fear of destabilising the energy-rich West Asia at a time when it is already unstable and Russia and China now having a high profile there. Nuclear unpredictability of the kind spread by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, would also be a dampener on Bolton’s firebrand policies. Other analysts feel that Bolton is one man who could pressurize Pakistan where the United States has some policy issues.
According to an analysis entitled ‘The Bajwa Doctrine’, published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a leading British think-tank, Pakistan’s generals spell out their vision for the future of US-Pakistan military relations under the administration of President Donald Trump. Pakistan is now adamant that the time for American threats and directives is over. The hawks in both Washington and New Delhi are anxious to see Bolton as a man who could adopt a threatening policy towards Pakistan. They endorse Bolton apprehensions that if Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal were to fall into the hands of the radicals, “you would have Iran on steroids right now.” Yet Pakistani officials have long rejected this notion. According to a report in the New York Times, a little more than a year after Bajwa took command, he has left no doubt as to who is in charge with there already being talk of the “Bajwa Doctrine” in which the army chief’s vision is being reflected in Pakistan’s approach to foreign and domestic policies.
According to a report in a private channel, the document, which was published recently, said Pakistan appears far more confident than it was when the George W Bush administration threatened the then-president, General Pervez Musharraf (Retd) that they would bomb Pakistan “back to the stone age” if it didn’t comply with American demands. Gone are the days of timidity and scurrying to please the Americans. This is being called the ‘Bajwa Doctrine’, and it suggests that the Pakistan Army should not do more, but rather the world must do more. The virtual fact is that strategic restraint, national interest, cautious pragmatism towards the US, and focusing on regional harmony are the driving features of Gen Bajwa strategy.
Bolton says the United States cannot walk away from the war in Afghanistan because of the larger threat from the Taliban, the Islamic State terror group and al-Qaida. Bolton’s views on ensuring the Taliban are degraded square with Trump’s Afghan strategy announced last August. Trump committed to sustaining the U.S. military campaign for as long as necessary and empowered American field commanders in Afghanistan to make tactical decisions as they deemed necessary. The Trump administration has faced criticism about the lack of a complementary political and diplomatic strategy to achieve reconciliation in a country replete with ethnic fault lines, government corruption and a resilient Taliban. Conceding that the Taliban insurgency is gaining momentum, Bolton has argued that a more compelling reason for the U.S. staying the course in the Afghan war is to prevent radicals in neighboring Pakistan from being emboldened.
Yet although Bolton is often described as a rigid ideologue, he sees himself as a ruthless pragmatist who is more than willing to use diplomatic means to advance U.S. interests. And if Bolton the pragmatist wins out, he will be well-placed to steer the Trump White House in a more coherent and constructive direction. Yet Bolton takes strong exception to US’ International affairs expert Colin Dueck’s claim that the chief dividing line among Republicans has been the one separating anti-interventionists from hawks, on the grounds that anti-interventionism and hawkishness are less guiding ideologies—for that, look to nationalism—than tactical alternatives, the wisdom or foolishness of which will depend on contingent circumstances.
While juxtaposing the two approaches: Bolton’s intrusive strategy and Gen Bajwa’s pragmatist-cum-blunt approach projected by Pakistan’s nationalist urges, one may reasonably argue that for maintaining geopolitical harmony and peace in the region, Bolton would help draw policy lines to foster pacification and reconciliation towards Pakistan. The undeniable truth is that the Bajwa approach encourages Islamabad’s independent foreign policy orientations free from American dictated trajectory.
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.

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