Akbar Jan Marwat
A SPOKESMAN of the US State Department aptly described the current phase of the Pak-US relationship as “Complicated but vital”. To be honest the Pak-US relations have been marked by mutual over expectation since the time Pakistan came into existence. During this long period, there have been points of both convergence and divergence in the mutual policy of a both the states. The phases of convergence were, when the US’s Perceived interest and those of Pakistan were similar if not identical. The period of divergence off-course consisted of phases when the core interests of the two states differed.
The current phase of the Pak US relations can also be referred to as one of divergence. The present strain in the Pak US relations stems from three persistent demands, which the US is making on Pakistan. Pakistan, in my opinion, is correctly finding it difficult to oblige the US on these demands. These three demands are: 1, The release of Dr Shakil, the doctor who helped US identify Osama bin Laden through a hoax inoculation campaign; 2, To Take military action against Haqqani network; 3, refrain from deploying theatre on tactical nuclear weapons against India.
The reason behind these terse demands on Pakistan by the U.S could mainly be two fold: A, The increasing frustration and impatience of the US, due to the deteriorating situation in Kabul because of the Taliban offensive. And b, the high degree of enthusiasm Pakistan is showing in the CPEC, which the US reckons may be detrimental to its long terms geo strategic interests. In the interests of better understanding, it would be helpful to analyze in detail the three demands put forward by the US, and Pakistan’s compulsions and reservations regarding meeting these demands.
The U.S demand of Dr Shakil Afridi,s release seems to stem from US’s desire to bask in continued publicity of US’s success in killing Bin Ladin. Past precedents of handing over of American operators like Raymond Davis, who had killed Pakistani Citizens, add to American arrogance and confidence, in getting Dr Shakil Afridi released as well. The difference between the Raymond Davis’s case and Dr Shakil Afridi’s case however is the humiliation that Pakistani state and our defence establishment faced because of the alleged treasonous behaviour of Dr Afridi.
The second US demand of taking action against the Haqqani network, is off course, a much more serious affair. Recently Sirajuddin Haqani the head of Haqqani network was made a deputy to Mullah Mohammad Mansoor, the new Amir of the Afghan Taliban. The international consensus is on the fact, that the only durable solutions to Afghan crises are a negotiated settlement. China one of the members of QCG, is against using force against any group, as according to it, the QCG is formed only for a negotiated solution of the dispute. The Afghan and US demand of taking action against the Haqqani’s not only betrays their desperation but it also quite paradoxical, as our PM said in Washington lately. “You cannot accept us to bring the Haqqani’s to the peace tables, as well as take military action against them” Pakistan believes that cross border fencing at strategic locations, can considerably contain the cross border movement of both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban. The Afghan government has vigorously opposed such moves. Both the US and Afghanistan have not shown much enthusiasm in Pakistan’s desire of fencing certain parts of Pak-Afghan border and creating effective coordination mechanism, to control cross border movement.
Afghan government reluctance of cooperating on the border issue, creates doubts in certain sections of our intelligence and defence establishment; that Afghan desire to keep the border open, may be to facilitate the Indian helped TTP to launch cross border operations into Pakistan from their Safe sanctuaries in Afghanistan. There seems to be a strange coincidence that TTP after the Zarb-e-Azb has occupied those territories, which were vacated by the US forces near Pak-Afghan border in Afghanistan.
The 3rd US Demand on Pakistan is perhaps, the most sinister of all. The demand pertains to halting by Pakistan, from the deployment of tactical or theatre nuclear weapons. Accepting this demand can be suicidal for Pakistan: as in the absence of these tactical nuclear weapons, Pakistan would lose its preemptive strike capability against India’s Cold start doctrine which prescribes a sudden, massive and swift nuclear strike against Pakistan. At recently held nuclear summit in the US, its President chided both India and Pakistan for moving in the wrong direction “in their strategic nuclear programs’’. Yet the main pressure is applied on Pakistan to desist from deploying tactical nuclear weapons against India. The U.S should be more even handed, and remove Pakistan’s genuine concern of India’s development of the Cold start doctrine. The signing of a nuclear peace deal only with India further puts pressure on Pakistan and increases its insecurity and anxiety. As the US has specifically taken up this issue with Pakistan, the government of Pakistan can ask the U.S to make sure that India also backs away from its offensive nuclear postures and forward deployment. It is only in such circumstances of calm that mutual confidence between the two nations, can improve, and Pakistan can reciprocate in kind.
As I was about to send my column to the press, news just came in that ‘Mullah Akthar Mansur’ the current Amir of the Afghan Taliban was killed in a drone attack near Pak-Afghan boarder in Balochistan. This development is going to generate its own share of controversy. Pakistan is going to raise issues of sovereignty, where as the US is going to play upon the presence of such a high profile Taliban leader on Pakistani soil. The Afghan peace talks, which were already floundering, will get anther severe set back. Pakistan must ensure to avoid confrontation with US and continue to work for a peaceful resolution of these existential Afghan crises in which all three countries the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan have to work in unison. The U.S on its part, being a super power has to show latitude and generosity toward Pakistan. It must not push Pakistan into jeopardizing its vital interests.
—The writer is author, citizen journalist and entrepreneur based in Islamabad.