THE chill in Pak-US relations triggered by the announcement of new Policy on Afghanistan and South Asia by President Trump and the outright rejection of the US view point by Pakistan, continues to persist due to the uncalled-for US rhetoric about safe havens of terrorists in Pakistan and its threatening posture notwithstanding the engagement between the two countries at the diplomatic level and exchange of high level visits. The US vice President Mike Pence during his unannounced visit to Afghanistan said” For too long Pakistan has provided safe havens to the Taliban and many terrorist organizations, but those days are over. President Trump has put Pakistan on notice. As the President said, so I say now: Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the U.S., and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.”
The foreign spokesman reacting to his remarks said “The statement is at variance with the extensive conversations we have had with the US Administration. On notice should be those factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, industrial scale corruption, breakdown of governance, and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan, Also on focus should be: creating peace and reconciliation mechanisms. And finally, externalizing blame should be put on notice.” The statement by Pence negates all the diplomatic norms and principles governing inter-state relations particularly for a country like Pakistan which has been the US ally for so long and had also suffered enormously in the fight against terrorism. The firm response given by the foreign office is justified in view of the continued harshness in US stance and as expected from a self-respecting nation.
The military also reacted befittingly to the rhetoric. DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor talking to a private TV channel said “We need nothing from US but acknowledgement for our contributions, our sacrifices and our efforts for peace in the region. We all know how the war on terror started and how it was imposed upon us. We have fought it as our own war in the best interest of our country. We did whatever we had to in the interest of Pakistan and what we do in the future will also be in our interest. Afghanistan’s war will not be fought again on Pakistani soil. Afghanistan’s war was imposed on Pakistan. Pakistan has repeatedly urged elimination of TTP leadership present inside Afghanistan. US can give India any status it wants to, but any role which gives India permission to work against Pakistan’s interests will not be acceptable to the country. If US extends cooperation to Pakistan, terrorism can be eliminated altogether. We have cleared our areas of terrorists. Afghan forces are responsible for such elements present on other side of the border … they need to chase them,” The position taken by Pakistan in regards to the solution of the Afghan conflict is in conformity with the ground realities. Unilateral actions by Pakistan as expected by the US are not going to succeed. The biggest hurdle is the issue of border management for which honest and credible reciprocity by the US is need. It is an irrefutable reality that more than 40% Afghan territory is under occupation of the Afghan Taliban particularly the areas near Pakistan border. The TTP leadership is also based there and are sponsoring and carrying out acts of terrorism within Pakistan. Another point which needs to be understood by the US is that Haqqanis are Afghans and after the operation Zarb-e-Azb they have gone back to their own territory. The terrorist attacks in Afghanistan are being executed from within the Afghan territory and not by the Taliban allegedly living in safe havens in Pakistan. Until and unless these realities are duly acknowledged by the US no fruitful outcome could be expected in regards to ending war in Afghanistan.
US also needs to revisit its approach for a military solution and involvement of India in Afghanistan because it would neither be acceptable to the Afghan Taliban nor Pakistan. Another inescapable reality is that there can be no peace in Afghanistan without cooperation of Pakistan. Nobody can change geographical realities. Yet another thing that US must understand is that Pakistan would be biggest beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan as peace in Pakistan was inextricably linked to it. Pakistan therefore would be the last country to wish continuation of strife in Afghanistan or support the Taliban for launching attacks within Afghanistan using its soil.
Pakistan has even asked to US to identify where according to her the alleged safe havens existed on its soil and it would take immediate action against them. Pakistan and US can devise an effective collective mechanism to deal with the situation and clearing the haze about the alleged existence of safe havens in Pakistan provided the US is really sincere in restoration of peace in Afghanistan. Under the circumstance Pakistan must brace itself for the negative fallout from the US-Indian nexus. The best option available to Pakistan to neutralize and mitigate the impact of this unholy alliance is to reinforces its relations with the regional countries and seek their support in promoting peace in the region. The renewed efforts to reach out to Iran and warming up relations with Russia, is a step in the right direction. China is already supportive of Pakistan efforts and a stakeholder in peace and implementation of CPEC which makes them natural allies. SCO is yet another forum to be relied upon to enhance prospects of peace in the region and thwarting the conspiracies to destabilise it.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.