Echoing old mantra


Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

RECENTLY, a bipartisan United States Senate delegation visited Pakistan. The senators’ visit has created optimism about the probability of a pause in deteriorating Pakistan-United States bilateral relations. In reality, the American Congress men have adopted carrot and stick approach to influence Pakistan’s foreign policy. They were explicit in twisting Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy and exercising implicit tactics to facilitate India’s hegemony in the region. Conversely, Islamabad is realistically endeavouring to sustain its major Non-NATO ally stature in Washington’s strategic calculation.
Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Elizabeth Warren met civilian and military leadership during their Pakistan visit (from July 2-3, 2017). The primary focus of the visiting dignitaries was on cooperation in counter-terrorism and in restoring peace in Afghanistan. Moreover, to assess the regional situation before sending more American troops in Afghanistan. It was reported that Pentagon is contemplating to send 4000 additional troops in Afghanistan to strengthen NATO’s Operation Resolute Support. The NATO has currently deployed 13, 500 troops in Afghanistan.
The Senators directly and indirectly repeated Washington demands to do more and assist US and Afghanistan forces in eliminating Haqqani network. On July 4, 2017, while speaking in Kabul Senator McCain warned Pakistan on the issue of Haqqani network. He stated: “If they don’t change their behaviour maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation.” In reality, Washington has already altered its policy towards Islamabad. Republican Congressman Ted Poe and Democrat Congressman Rick Nolan moved a bipartisan bill in Congress seeking to revoke Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.
Islamabad’s efforts to institutionalise Pakistan-Afghanistan border security coordination and cooperation mechanism impressed the visitors. Pakistan has adopted a practical strategy to manage the common Afghanistan-Pakistan border. It is fencing border and also gradually increasing surveillance through the construction of forts and posts. Indeed, the adequate management of the 2650 km common border individually is an expensive and difficult task for Pakistani border forces. Importantly, the United States also provided Rs9.9 billion for law enforcement personnel in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, building the Takhta Baig-Mattani road and for construction of more than 100 border outposts. The financial support to build infrastructure to monitor the border underscores that Americans also realise the significance of the border security to combat the menace of terrorism. However, they failed to convince Kabul to institutionalise border security coordination and cooperation mechanism.
The American Senators visited South Waziristan Agency on July 3, 2017. They appreciated Pakistan’s accomplishments against transnational terrorist organizations. Senator McCain stated the South Waziristan visit facilitated in understanding “challenges, successes and remaining challenges that require close coordination and assistance from us and with us”. They stressed for the continuity of cooperation between Islamabad and Washington for regional peace. Simultaneously, without mincing the words Senator McCain demanded for a “right strategy” for combating menace of terrorism and restoring peace in Afghanistan. Indeed, he clarified the host to revamp its counter-terrorism strategy and Afghanistan policy. Conversely, Islamabad emphasized on the practicability of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) for enabling Afghan reconciliation.
Islamabad and Washington desires for the restoring peace in Afghanistan. Ironically, both sides have failed to chalk out an agreeable mechanism to facilitate Afghan reconciliation. Despite Islamabad’s advocacy of revival of QCG, Washington remains averse. In fact, the latter desires to legitimise India’s primacy in South Asia including Afghanistan. Whereas; QCG legitimises China’s role in Afghanistan affairs.
The American visitors had shown lesser concern over Islamabad’s edginess on the increasing New Delhi’s clout in Kabul. However, to pacify Pakistanis, they expressed positive opinion for the solution of Kashmir dispute. They also tried to pacify Pakistan over the US-India Joint Statement issued from Washington D.C. on June 27, 2017 and the US State Department declaration of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a Designated Global Terrorist. On July 2, 2017, Senator McCain affirmed that there was no change in the US position on Kashmir and the country will continue its existing policy on Kashmir.
To conclude, the sustainable constructive engagement with United States is imperative for pursuing Pakistan’s regional and global objectives. The trends in the regional strategic environment, however, seem critical for enduring Pakistan-United States security cooperation.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
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