Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
THE transformation in the global politics, cementing Indo-US strategic partnership and deteriorating situation in Afghanistan are shaping Americans perception about Pakistan’s role in their strategic calculations. Whereas; many Pakistanis have failed to overcome the nostalgia of the Cold War. Instead of comprehending what is happening in the regional and global strategic environment, they are censuring Islamabad for irritating Trump Administration.
In reality, Pakistan neither desires nor is capable to act fourth time a frontline-state of the United States in the region. Simultaneously, it is not prepared to give up on its seven decades stance of sovereign equality in South Asia. The Americans endeavour to establish India’s regional hegemony to guard their strategic interests in Asia severely undermines Pakistan’s national security. That’s why; Islamabad seems uncomfortable due to Afghanistan-India strategic partnership, which was engineered by Obama Administration. These actualities, certainly, mirrored in the forthcoming or much awaited Trump Administration strategy for South Asia.
Presently, Trump Administration is contemplating about its strategy for South Asia. The general impression is that it may not club Pakistan with Afghanistan. It may develop a new policy for the entire region. The discontinuity of Obama administration Af-Pak strategy sounds better. Nevertheless, it would not treat India and Pakistan equally. Islamabad, therefore, does not expect much from the Trump Administration and chalk out a pragmatic policy to sustain its better bilateral relationship with United States.
Trump Administration cannot completely relinquish its military engagement with Pakistan due to United States serious interest in Afghanistan in particular and Central and West Asia in general. Despite Pakistan’s cementing strategic partnership with China and increasing understanding with Russian Federation and firmness to check India’s regional primacy, Washington will continue exercising its carrot-and-stick approach towards Islamabad.
Washington and Islamabad have been reiterating that ‘cooperation is imperative’ for restoring peace in Afghanistan and devastating transnational terrorist syndicate. On July 24, 2017, General John Nicholson, commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan visited Islamabad and met Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa. He restated the vitality of Islamabad in Pentagon’s Afghanistan mission. Precisely, both sides settled to continue engagement and coordination for peace and stability in the region.
United States is openly expressing its annoyance with Pakistan. Recently, Pentagon refused to reimburse $50 million out of the ‘Coalition Support Fund’. Ironically, in the latest counterterrorism report both the State Department and Defense Department demonized Pakistan role in Afghanistan. Secretary Jim Mattis’ claimed that Pakistan had not taken “sufficient action” against the Haqqani network and alleged Pakistan had not finished Taliban sanctuaries located on its territory. In addition, the report also accused Pakistani law enforcement agencies for facilitating Haqani network operations in Afghanistan.
The continuous exercising of carrot-and-stick strategy may not serve the objectives of United States in the region. The lacuna in this strategy is Americans colossal misperception about Pakistanis. The American decision makers ought to be cognizant about Washington’s limitations in bullying Islamabad in the prevalent regional and global strategic environment. Washington’s inclination towards New Delhi to contain China and thereby having diminutive accommodative approach towards Pakistan necessitate Islamabad to pursue alternative options in its external affairs. The shift in both Washington and Islamabad foreign outlook, definitely, wane formal influence over latter foreign and strategic policy.
Although United States announced its forces withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, yet it is keeping 13300 US-NATO troops in Afghanistan to pursue numerous unstated goals. Perhaps, the primary objective is to prevent the collapse of the US-installed Kabul regime and combat the terrorist syndicate having sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The Americans needs Pakistan’s sincere support in Afghanistan.
To conclude, the mistrust between Islamabad and Washington is in the advantage of anti-Pakistan lobby at the Capitol Hill. It may successfully influence the American Congressmen and Trump Administration in chalking out and executing harmful South Asian strategy. It would not only undermine Pakistan’s national security but also obstruct Washington pursuits of objectives in the region. Thus, the tension between Islamabad and Washington simply obstruct counter-terrorism strategies of both states in the region.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
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Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal