The Bajwa Doctrine | By Dr Farrukh Saleem

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The Bajwa Doctrine

THE Bajwa Doctrine 2021 is about one thing: Pakistan’s “march towards a new future”. The doctrine stands on four pillars: putting ‘our own house in order’; strategic regional peace building, connectivity and enhanced intra-regional trade.

The doctrine is about moving from jingoism to realism, from chauvinism to pragmatism. The doctrine is about ‘burying the past’ and focusing on internal security.

In Afghanistan, the only thing that has come out a winner is Pakistan’s narrative. President Ashraf Ghani now stands convinced and recognizes Pakistan’s ‘crucial role’ in the Afghan peace process.

On May 10, in a meeting in Kabul with COAS General Bajwa, President Ghani actually “lauded Pakistan’s sincere and positive role in the Afghan peace process.” The landmark Doha Deal has been a victory for Pakistan.

Pakistan has won on two counts. One-India has learnt the limits of its power; Kabul is India-friendly no more. Two-the US has learnt the hard way the reality of its dependence on Pakistan.

In the United States, the Biden administration also stands convinced that Pakistan is a key player in the Afghan peace process.

Under the Bajwa doctrine, Pakistan is now not only pitching for a reset in Pakistan-US ties but the “broadening of relations beyond Afghanistan”.

Under the Bajwa Doctrine, CPEC “remains central to our vision, only seeing Pakistan through CPEC prism is also misleading”.

More often than not, Pakistan-US relationship has been cyclical whereby Pakistan has both been the ‘most allied ally’ and the ‘most sanctioned ally’.

The Bajwa Doctrine now pitches to take the Pakistan-US relationship from a ‘single anchor’ to ‘multiple anchors’.

The Pentagon is looking at repositioning its forces in the region, “bases that can house its soldiers, drone, bombers and artillery to support the Afghan government…”.

The CIA is looking at enhancing its spy networks and creating a real-time response capability to act on specific intelligence.

Over the past four months, COAS General Bajwa has had at least four high level interactions: February 19 with the US Central Command commander General Frank McKenzie; March 21, April 28 and May 24 telephone contacts with Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin III.

In another first, Pakistan and US NSAs met in Geneva on May 23. On May 27, Bill Gates and General Bajwa had a telephonic conversation. On May 28, US Charge d’ Affairs called on General Bajwa.

This is unprecedented. Something very significant-including Pakistan’s economy, the IMF and FATF-could have been under discussion.
Under the Bajwa Doctrine, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have now vowed to reset ties. In 2020, Pak-Saudi relationship had hit a major bump.

In October 2018, Saudi Arabia had agreed to an assistance package comprising $3 billion plus oil on deferred payment basis.

In July 2020, Saudi Arabia pressed Pakistan to return its $3 billion. In August, Pakistan borrowed from China and repaid $1 billion to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-Pak relations strained. On 4 May 2021, General Bajwa flew to Saudi Arabia on an extended trip. That trip initiated the untying of the knots between the two long-standing allies.

Under the Bajwa Doctrine, Pakistan’s foreign policy is to move away from its ‘geographic thrust’ to a ‘geo-economic’ focus.

Pakistan is to adhere to the ‘laws of geo-economic gravity’ whereby “bilateral trade between two countries is proportional to size, measured by GDP, and inversely proportional to the geographic distance between them.”

This is where India comes in. Under the Bajwa Doctrine, Pakistan wants to “extend the hand of peace in all directions.”

There also is a new ‘marketing plan’-to market Pakistan as a ‘geo-economic potential’ by enhancing Pakistan’s investment attractiveness. The doctrine wants to open Pakistan for business.

The Bajwa Doctrine is about re-prioritizing: to “arrange things in a new order of importance”.

Re-prioritizing economics over geography and bringing economics to the heart of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

For the first time ever, the Bajwa Doctrine has inducted ‘weaponised interdependence’ as one of Pakistan’s foreign policy tools in order to extract strategic advantage for Pakistan in a globalized world full of complex interdependencies.

Under the Bajwa Doctrine, Pakistan is to brand itself as an ‘Asian gateway’ as Pakistan lies “at the hub of Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia providing the most economical strategic link between the resource affluent Persian Gulf/Central Asia and the energy scarce wider South Asia.”

Pakistan offers the shortest land route to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the Arabian Sea. An ‘Asian gateway’ and an ‘energy corridor’-two in one.

Pakistan, most definitely, needs a new paradigm. Not an easy task, to be certain. In order to make Pakistan investment-friendly we need political stability, economic policy predictability and a robust regulatory regime.

Not an easy task. Yes, Pakistan wants a ‘different’, non-transactional relationship with the US.

Is the Biden administration buying into Pakistan’s new geo-economic vision? Is the Biden administration willing to look at Pakistan through a broader lense? Within our region, regional peace really depends on India’s reciprocity.

Question: Is India prepared to create a conducive environment? Answer: There’s little indication of that so far.