NEW government is in place in Pakistan. Based on its anti-corruption agenda, it would be difficult for Washington to get is way. Our previous governments indulged in mega corruption at the cost of national interests of the country while the western governments benefitted and looked the other way as our leaders looted public funds and foreign aid. Under this give and take policy, other countries have been getting away with anti-Pakistan agendas in the region. Imran hopes to end this. By rejecting US state department statement on terrorists, Islamabad has shown that things could be changing for better in Pakistan. With an eye on bigger picture, it would be better if Washington avoids any dictations ahead of Pompeo’s visit to Pakistan so that both countries could work together to become partners in peace, prosperity and development. Washington should understand that era of transactional military alliance with Pakistan is over and Islamabad has to move with region to protect its national interests.
Pompeo’s agenda of using force and continuation of occupying Afghanistan on the pretext of bringing peace in the country has lost support in the region. The leaders of China, Russia and India want to create jobs for their people, improve economies and build infrastructures to improve the living standards of their people. They do not want to spend tax money on foreign wars. It makes sense if Imran is rejecting US demand to do more and foreign wars because he also wants to improve life of ordinary people who have voted him to power. In fact, America needs to change its Afghan policy. It should withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, end military bases and let Afghans build their own country. Trump is on record that America is no more in business of nation building under his America first policy. Both Washington and Islamabad should move forward from military alliance to other areas of cooperation such as education, agriculture, transfer of high end technology, defence manufacturing, healthcare, infrastructure development, economy and exports.
Furthermore, Imran should make an alliance with Trump to help stop Afghan drug exports to bring an end to the misery of millions of drug addicts in Pakistan, America and Europe. Islamabad should also ask for FATF like sanctions against the governments and organizations including NATO for their alleged collusion in proliferation of billions of dollars of drug trade, using drug money to fund wars, change governments and buy politicians. Reportedly, before US Afghan invasion drug production was almost non-existent in the region. But despite heavy military presence in Afghanistan with majority of US troops Afghanistan has become a true narco-state and leading heroine exporter to the world. After the US invasion the opium production surged from 180 tonnes in 2001 to 8000 tons a year by 2007. History shows increase in drug production in US occupied territories during wars (How the heroin trade explains the US-UK failure in Afghanistan, 9 Jan 2018, The Guardian). Islamabad should demand for expulsion of foreign intelligence set up from Afghanistan including India for permanent peace.
Unlike our previous governments, it is hoped that the new government will get guarantees of end of foreign sponsored acts of terrorism inside Pakistan so that we can build our economy and Washington should respect Pakistan’s interests. At the same time Islamabad should seek help of Iran, India and collaborate with China and USA to use satellite technology as a deterrence to end foreign interference in Pakistan from its eastern and western borders. Pakistan is in stronger position to deal with America. There is a growing realization in (South West) Asia that regional alliances and mega project like CPEC can help develop economies, create jobs and build much needed infrastructures. It explains expansion of multilateral cooperation amongst regional powers including Russia, China, Pakistan, CARS and Iran. Putin has arranged Afghan peace talks next months.
Also, the US Indo-Pacific Policy of military alliance against regional powers has failed because Delhi has acknowledged the growing importance of regional powers, economic alliances and trade. Trump’s America first policy and anti-immigration policy has foiled Modi’s western based plans to create jobs, expand country’s exports and win support of overseas Indians. A weakened Modi now wants to join China’s BRIs to protect its national interests, which is welcome news for the region. Finally, regional powers are looking at America to change its Afghan policy, withdraw its troops and end its military bases in Afghanistan to help bring permanent peace in the region. It is hoped that the PM is able to give the same message to Trump that peace not war is the way forward in Afghan policy, long-term interest of the region and America itself. And there can be permanent partnership for peace, prosperity and development between Pak and America based on mutual respect. It will help Pakistan have balanced foreign policy and allow America to protect its trade interests in the region by peaceful means.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.