Paradigm shift in foreign policy?

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NEWS & VIEWS

Mohammad Jamil

POLITICAL landscape of the world is fast changing due to arrogance of President Donald Trump, with the result new alliances are likely to be formed. The US is at loggerheads not only with his foes like China and Russia but also with its friends like Canada, and of course with Turkey, Iran and Pakistan — once staunch allies of the US and the West. Recently, Trump administration has refused to provide funds for sixty-six military officers for the next academic year in the US National Defence University (NDU), Washington. The fund for training Pakistani officers came from the US government’s International Military Education and Training Programme (IMET). According to reports, American officials are worried that the Trump administration’s decision could undermine a key trust-building measure. Dan Feldman, a former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called the move “very short-sighted and myopic”, adding that it is against national interest.
“This will have lasting negative impacts limiting the bilateral relationship well into the future,” Mr. Feldman told Reuters. Many analysts are of the view that Trump’s silly move could push Pakistan’s military to further look towards China or Russia for military leadership training. A US State Department spokesperson said that the effective suspension of Pakistan from the US government’s International Military Education and Training program (IMET) will close off places that had been set aside for 66 Pakistani officers this year. Knowing that Trump administration was poised to stop funding for the above, last week an agreement was signed between Pakistan and Russia for training of Pakistani troops in Russia, which was decided at culmination of first meeting of joint Military Consultative Committee (JMCC). Pakistan’s defence ties with Russia are growing strong with each passing day and this pact has opened new avenues of cooperation between two countries.
A desire from both sides has already been seen in the recent past to boost economic and political relations. Obviously, these moves are seen with suspicion by US and India. The fact of the matter is that Trump policy of pushing Pakistan against the wall has forced the latter to find new alliances. Pakistan had already started looking towards east. In 2011, addressing the Joint celebration for the Chinese Spring Festival co-organized by foreign office and Chinese Embassy, the then foreign minister, and now foreign minister in-waiting Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said: “Pakistan had been looking towards the West in the past but time has come to divert its attention to the East”. Being a very important statement, it should have made headlines but media gurus did not consider it worth its while for the best reasons known to them. Anyhow, the US in the past betrayed Pakistan many a time despite being its ally for the last six decades.
It has to be mentioned that the US had stopped military to Pakistan after 1965 war, and its role in 1971 war is an open secret. Pakistan had suffered enormously by supporting Afghan jihad on the behest of the US. But after Soviet forces withdrew, the US left the region in a lurch. One does not need to be a foreign policy expert to understand that the objective of foreign policy for any country is to have cordial relations with all countries of the world especially the neighbouring countries with a view to safeguarding its national security and independence. On the basis of this benchmark, our foreign policy has been a dismal failure. Because of incompetence of our leadership, the position today is that the US, western countries and Afghanistan blame Pakistan for providing safe haven to the Taliban and Haqqani network.
Pakistan had faced similar situation in the past during Cold War era. The Arab countries like Egypt, Syria, Libya etc., were unhappy with Pakistan because of being in the Western camp and doing its bidding; the newly independent and non-aligned nations were suspicious of our role for the same the same reason; and the socialist block considered Pakistan as their enemy. However, the US-led western powers thought of Pakistan no more than a pawn on their international political chessboard. The threat to Pakistan’s security from India might have been a cogent and genuine reason for joining Baghdad Pact, Cento, Seato and entering into bilateral agreements with the US, but prospects to achieve this objective were obscured with the ‘clause’ that they would would help Pakistan only in case of Communist aggression. The people of Pakistan understood the meaninglessness of these pacts when during two wars with India in 1965 and 1971.
Till late 1980s, the US and the West conveyed an impression that Pakistan’s survival was the cornerstone of their policy, but once they achieved their objective of pushing Soviet troops out of Afghanistan, they ditched Pakistan. After Pakistan came into being, foreign policy was framed by the bureaucracy, and entered into defence pacts and agreements with the US and the West. However, Pakistan’s relations had become strained with the Soviet Union after the US spy plane U-2 took off from the Budaber base. The then premier Khrushchev had also threatened Pakistan of dire consequences. Since Pakistan remained committed to the West to work as bulwark against communism, the USSR developed very close relations with India and signed friendship treaty, which in fact was a defence treaty. It was in this backdrop that India had the Soviet Union’s blessings when it played a pivotal role in dismemberment of Pakistan.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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