Pakistan lies at the crossroads of South Asia, Central and West Asia and has borders with hostile neighbours like India and Afghanistan. This location is strategically unique and holds tremendous value. It has been centre of attention of different major powers at different times in its 69 year history. Such strategic position brings along added disadvantages like plague of trans-national terrorism emanating from both Eastern and Western fronts.
Any turmoil in Afghanistan has always spilled over to Pakistan and would persist till the porous border is guarded. Pakistan has been advocating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. This is very important to understand since an externally imposed peace process merely alienates the stakeholders from the mainstream. Including certain ethnicities and excluding others goes against the peace efforts. The death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has created new uncertainties and blurred the future prospects regarding reconciliation. The US needs to elucidate its position as to what is the way forward, at one hand it advocates talks under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG); while on the other hand shows mistrust towards Pakistan. Talks are the only viable option when military means to resolve conflict have been exhausted. The failure of talks is a nightmare for Pakistan, as it had been facing the consequences of Afghan conflict for over three decades. All four partners under Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) need to speed up their efforts rather than just demanding Pakistan to do more.
The role of external forces in Balochistan and the need for insulation from them is yet another dilemma. The capturing of RAW’s agent speaks volumes about the subversive Indian activities. This makes an allusion to entangling Pakistan from both fronts and alienating it from regional arena. India, Iran and Afghanistan have recently signed a tripartite agreement to turn the Iranian Chabahar Port into a transit hub. This holds the potential to limit Pakistan’s role in allowing trade routes to land-locked countries of Central Asia. However, both should operate as complementary economic centres, as has already been proclaimed by the Pakistani leaders and endorsed and appreciated by Iranian brethren.
Challenges emanating from India are persistent. The closer Indo-US alliance has significant negative implications for Pakistan’s security. With all the technological and military doors open, India has procured weapons worth $100 billion. This is a duplicity in US policy, on one side it arms India and on other side asks Pakistan to make unilateral concessions to India. US has posed discriminatory restraints on Pakistan’s acquisition of dual-use technologies and weapons. The US congress endorsed blocking $450 million of military aid alongside stopping subsidized sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan. Moreover, the US Drone Strike carried out in Balochistan also violates Pakistan’s sovereignty and is detrimental to regional stability. All this contributes to the pitfall in Pakistan-US relations when the only converging interest of both over Afghanistan and counter-terrorism is also depleting.
The competitive nature of international politics also affects us gravely and thus Pakistan’s relationship with China is pivotal. The US containment of China by arming India should be emulated in Pak-China relations, latter sharing its advanced weaponry. Pakistan got full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2015, which can ensure greater access to resources and energy projects. It will strengthen our regional position on a number of issues from military to technological means. It also provides an opportunity to take relations with Russia to a higher level. It holds room for diplomatic and military cooperation at a time when Russia itself is displeased with burgeoning Indo-US ties.
Pakistan’s support and cooperation is indispensable in bringing about regional peace and stability. From combating terrorism to bringing peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s role is vital. All the aforementioned opportunities will be translated into tangible achievements in short span of time. Projects like CPEC will become game changer in the region while adding economic stability to Pakistan. Perhaps then only external powers would recognize the strength of Pakistan and the role it played in combating the menace of terrorism in the region.
— The writer is an intern at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.