Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
SINCE the (in-)famous President Donald Trump tweet, the Pakistani ruling elite has been ensuring the nation that they are vigilant and capable to safeguard the national interest. The befitting rhetorical responses of the high-ups have a soothing effect on the people of Pakistan, but the government seems inept in chalking out and announcing a realistic strategy to prevent the Trump Administration’s bullish attitude towards Pakistan. It has clearly reprimanded the country. On November 9, 2018, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan pointed out that ‘the US is using Pakistan as a scapegoat for its failures in Afghanistan.’ Islamabad is responding diplomatically, but military threats cannot be deterred without preparing and flexing the military muscle.
Islamabad is repeating the old tested tactics to engage Americans and satisfy them without realizing that global strategic environment has immensely transformed. The change in the international strategic environment has both advantageous as well as disadvantageous for Pakistan. The demerit of the emerging global order is that Pakistan has gradually been losing its relevance in Washington’s strategic calculation due cementing Indo-US strategic partnership and bolstering Sino-Pak relations. Hence, the dismaying relations with Washington and the transforming global strategic environment necessitates the resetting of Pakistan’s defence policy in view of our own national security interest i.e. to deter the aggressive designs of both global and regional powers.
Islamabad’s refusal to accept India’s hegemony in South Asia and denial to accede President Trump’s new plan for South Asia and Afghanistan announced on August 21, 2017 frustrated Trump Administration. Pakistan’s Defence Minister categorically stated: “We won’t allow Afghan war be fought on Pakistani soil.” It is a clear message to both Afghanistan and United States that Pakistan is not harbouring any Afghan Taliban group on its territory, including famous Haqqani network. Despite Pakistan’s clarification, the Trump administration determined to extend the Afghan war well inside Pakistan.
Islamabad’s rejection of President Trump’s baseless allegations and non-acceptance of his national security team demands have negative ramifications for U.S.-Pakistan relations. Last week, Washington suspended $255 million of military aid to Pakistan. On December 17, 2017, Pentagon announced that Americans would also take unilateral steps in areas of divergence with Pakistan. Trump Administration has ‘put on notice’ Pakistan and thereby a few measures are likely to follow. These developments are clear signals about the probability of Americans troops conducting military operation on Pakistani territory without the permission of Islamabad in the near future.
President Trump seems determined to take punitive action against Pakistan. This bullying attitude towards Pakistan refreshes the Salala’s tragic incident. On November 26, 2011, Americans conducted unjustifiable airstrikes and martyred 24 Pakistani soldiers and officers deployed at Salala Check post situated on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Hence, one cannot rule out the repetition of Salala type military operation against the Pakistani forces in the future. The probability of American military strikes necessitates that Pakistani defence policy makers ought to chalk out a practical strategy to prevent the Americans military adventurism instead of simply repeating that Americans should realize sacrifices of Pakistanis in the war on terror.
In realpolitik moral principles or sacrifices are lesser important; only political interest determine state’s foreign and strategic policy. Pakistan’s ruling elite is too much relying on the diplomatic options and partners support to prevent the Americans aggressive designs. Admittedly, the emerging trends in the global strategic environment are conducive for Pakistan’s diplomatic and economic policy. Therefore, Americans economic sanctions and diplomatic maligning initiatives could be having lesser repercussions for Pakistan. However, the cementing strategic partnership with China and increasing strategic understanding with Russian Federation are not reliable alternatives to the significance of the sovereign defence.
The review of history proves that nation’s dependency on the auxiliary; partners or allies’ military muscles only perpetuate the vulnerability of the state’s sovereign survival. The famous dictum of the international politics—no permanent friends; no permanent enemies—alarms us that depending on allies or partners for sovereign survival is not advisable in the current interdependent global strategic environment. Thus, Islamabad has to follow look-within and self-help strategy to deter the aggressive designs of a super power.
The Pakistani policy-makers need to chalk out a Grand strategy to solidify the defensive fence of the country. The revisiting and altering of Pakistan’s defence policy does not mean that Islamabad is going to prepare itself to challenge the military might of the United States and pursue aggressive designs in South Asia. Precisely, Islamabad’s resetting defence policy only objective is to deter both the regional and great powers military adventurism against Pakistan.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.