Dr Muhammad Khan
ALTHOUGH, the entire world community finds it difficult to pull on with Trump’s America, however, Islamabad is particularly finding trouble to have an honourable bilateral relationship with Washington. Ever since President Trump announced his South Asian policy, there have been repeated hostile and pejorative statements from almost all security related departments of United States. The main focus of US fury has been that, Pakistan is hospitable to Afghan Taliban, especially the Haqqanis. On January 8, 2018, CIA Director Mike Pompeo while talking to CBS News said, “We see that Pakistan is continuing to provide safe harbour, havens inside of Pakistan for terrorists who present risks to the United States of America. We are doing our best to inform the Pakistanis that that is no longer going to be acceptable.”
The funny Pompeo like his boss is issuing statements as if Pakistan is a joke and 210 million Pakistanis are US paid servants. On a number of occasions, Pakistan has told both civil and military officials of US that, Islamabad does not harbour any terrorist outfit in its soil and has adopted a uniform policy in combating terrorists. Even Pakistan offered US to provide evidence, if it has against this group if really they are inside Pakistani soil. Earlier US Secretary of State and Defence Secretary have followed the footprints of President Trump. This is first time in its recent history that, Pakistan has refused to accept US demands and gave a cold response to its directives. Rather, in the heart of their hearts, the people of Pakistan are very happy that, finally they are getting rid of US financial and military assistance, which has been quite meagre, however brought lofty US demands in lieu. It is noteworthy that in the past, the scanty US assistance has made Pakistan a dependent state, rather independent. Now, Pakistan is exploring other options for self-sufficiency, indigenous production and diversification in its international relations.
But, Pakistan quest for an independent policy, discarding the peanut financial aid is not liked by Washington either. The CIA boss on one hand threatened Pakistan and on other hand said, “If they (Pakistan) fix this problem, we’re happy to continue to engage with them and be their partner. But if they don’t, we’re going to protect America.” In a way, U.S wants to have carrot and stick policy, which it had with Pakistan since last seventy years? Defence Secretary, James Mattis too have similar thinking for a re-engagement with Pakistan but on US terms. Mattis told DNA on January 6, 2018 that, Washington will restore security aid to Pakistan, provided Pakistan takes action against Haqqanis. “We’re still working with Pakistan, and we would restore the aid if we see decisive movements against the terrorists, who are as much of a threat against Pakistan as they are against us.” The ISPR clarified Pakistani position and its Director General said, “The Pakistan Army has indiscriminately targeted terrorists, including the Haqqani network at a heavy cost of blood and treasure.” This is the factual position, Pakistan has explained to US many times.
There is a strong feeling at White House and Pentagon that, US pressure and dictates on Pakistan have proved counter-productive. Rather, Pakistan feels more comfortable, while being away from this exploitative super power. Furthermore, such a US attitude is pushing Pakistan closer to China and Russia, to whom US has already declared rivals and revisionist states in Trump New National Security Strategy. Indeed, US did not expect such a straightforward response from Pakistan, which was very rare in the bilateral history of both countries. In the past Pakistan generally accepted US dictates without much resistance. In this regards, the statement of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is very significant. He said, “US behaviour is neither that of an ally nor of a friend. They, the US and allies, have the best and highly equipped forces. How come they could not perform in Afghanistan?” In fact, while putting blame of its own failure in Afghanistan on Pakistan, Trump and his military establishment want to come clean in front of US masses, who questions $700 billion defence budget of U.S military. Pakistani refusal to take US blame has put the Trump administration and the Pentagon in a state of embarrassment.
The bilateral Pak-US relationship is at a critical juncture, dictated by the principles of either disengagement or re-engagement. Both sides have a desire to maintain a working relationship with each other, the policy of re-engagement. However, with the current hard-line US stance against Pakistan, this policy will not work anymore. US will have to be realistic in the inter-state relationship with a nuclear power having prolonged strategic partnership with it. Gone are days, when Pakistan used to succumb infront of United States strategic objectives. The future direction of Pak-US relationship should be guided by the principles of sovereignty, national integrity and equality. The policy formulators and people at the helm of affairs at Islamabad must not accept any demand from Washington at the cost of national interests and collective national pride of Pakistan. Bold and futuristic decisions at decisive moments always make the nations strong and great. Pakistani nation is resilient, courageous and respectful, let’s have a similar leadership and say No to any US dictate.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.