National response to US South Asia policy

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Muhammad Usman
THE collision between Pakistan and US was imminent since last visit of John McCain when he warned of change in behaviour of US as a nation towards Pakistan if it does not respond to their prescription. It was Trump who pressed the accelerator last when he spit diatribe against Pakistan callously while unveiling US policy blissfully about South Asia. Pakistan response was fast and grim at polar contrast to US’s expectations developed particularly, over last 16 years. Message is short and clear. Pakistan does not want US aid. It wants trust, acknowledgement of its contributions against terrorism and appreciation/ understanding of its concerns in spirit of mutual comprehension.
No more one way traffic. No coercion could work rather collaboration and synergy of efforts among stakeholders is right approach for peaceful Afghanistan. On civil side, it was Imran Khan who led the national response. First immediately through his tweets, then press conference and finally on American TV CNN which calls him real lion of Pakistan. He gave roar to deeply embedded sentiments of people about US because of its highhandedness and insensitivity to our concerns. Ironically these have been seldom articulated by our leadership for dollars, fear of whip and own self perpetuation. Behind doors, it was Army which did the plain talking. COAS speech at September 06 was its public manifestation. Media and civil society spared nothing to expose cacophony of US policy. Abbasi government also joined albeit little late. Undoubtedly nation stands united to say no more appeasement and do more. The speed, intensity and unanimity of our response perplexed US because without our support any policy about Afghanistan is a non-starter however, still US approach remained stereotype and of indifference.
A rushed visit of Assistant Foreign Secretary of State was considered good enough to calm anguish and anger of Pakistan however, rebuffed by Pakistan promptly by putting it on hold. US is not accustomed to this kind of stop. It was first jolt to tumultuous relationship between two by One out of series of actions contemplated to demonstrate our resolve to safeguard our interests. It seems that with brisk joining of China and Russia in our support, good sense started finding place in concerned US’s quarters. It is time to remain steadfast and continue to conduct ourselves with poise and dignity without antagonising US. Our endeavour needs to be at having an understanding US. Unambiguity and persistence hold key.
Notwithstanding unity and resolve shown, Pakistan remains susceptible from within; a mindset marred with false sense of pragmatism born of enduring fear and ruling elite, deeply absorbed in self perpetuation. First one particularly with BRICS declaration has found fond logic for its timidity. Required message has been driven. Extra stretching would be counterproductive for precariously placed Pakistan politically, economically and internationally. Pakistan is in serious danger of being declared a state guilty of spreading terrorism worldwide and a state defaulted on its international financial obligations because of heap of debt beyond our payment capacity. Emotionalism and popular approval do not dictate foreign policy. It is true but a nation needs to have a bare minimum sovereignty and dignity.
No one seeks confrontation with US. If pushed to wall, inevitably Pakistan has to look at other options. Pakistan is a nation of 220 million resilient people. They could tighten belt. They prefer sacrifice than surrender if ably led. Pakistan is a nuclear power whose arsenal is not meant to be kept at shelf only. It is to protect Pakistan. Pakistan has immense geo – strategic position. With CPEC, besides China, other countries including Russia are also willing to stand with Pakistan. Given conditions declaration like BRICS could easily be pushed by them to back seat. Following China’s explanation is the example. Pakistan is now an open society out of which new sources of energy emerge. Once in midst of mantra of Do More, General Musharraf made publically clear that what Pakistan is doing, no other could do. If not satisfied then bring somebody else. This could only be said when a country is at position of some strength. At that time, Pakistan was relatively stronger. Dependence of US on Pakistan was greater to operate in Afghanistan.
In Zaradari government, hundreds of US’s intelligence operators in guise of civilian contactors made way to Pakistan. They established their tentacles across the country. Memo gate scandal was aimed at eroding Army institutionally. Nawaz did not keep FM. He kept slot with him and he was unlettered for the job. Now Khawaja Asif hardly makes any difference. Dawn leaks were of same dirt which Trump has thrown on Pakistan. Unfortunate statement of Khawaja Asif is its recent endorsement. Nawaz preferred to keep silence. Zardari is soft. US policy was neither sudden nor unexpected but our government took time to react. China was far faster. Least number of MPs were present in national assembly when resolution was passed against US. Such dithering and procrastination could cost heavily.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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