Pakistan

“If the U.S. is angry, Pakistan has got a new master and financier — China.”

August 28, 2017 08:00 AM

Mubashir Zaidi based in Karachi

The new Afghan strategy announced by U.S. President Donald Trump, which attacked Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists and offered India a greater role in Afghanistan, has put Islamabad in a tight spot. The political and military leaderships, usually divided on every governing issue, have come on “one page” to strongly condemn Mr. Trump’s remarks. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called for a joint session of Parliament to discuss the issue. He also chaired a National Security Committee meeting, which rejected President Trump’s Afghan strategy, and stated that Indian policies were inimical to peace in the region.

The Americans know that to put pressure on Pakistan, all they need to do is to take a pro-India line. A senior government official told The Hindu that the greater role the Trump administration is offering India in South Asia could prompt Pakistan to rethink its decades-old policy. 

In the words of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, the Americans are scapegoating Pakistan for their failure in Afghanistan. Opposition politicians also joined the government in slamming the U.S. Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, asked the country to learn from its past mistakes. “This should teach Pak once and for all a valuable lesson: never to fight others wars for the lure of dollars. Our economy suffered over $100 billion in losses. In addition, there were intangible costs on our society. Time for Pakistan to say: Never again,” he tweeted.

Pakistan fought two wars for the U.S. in Afghanistan, both under military regimes. In the 1980s, during General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s rule, the military went into covert operations in Afghanistan, along with the CIA, to fight the Soviet Red Army. Later, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., the Pakistani military joined the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, when General Pervez Musharraf was the ruler. In return, the U.S. flooded Pakistan with billions of dollars in aid.

Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan and India has historically been dominated by the military. After the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the U.S. lost interest in the country. But not Pakistan. Former military chief General Aslam Beg and former Inter-Service Intelligence chief Hameed Gul came up with a plan to make Afghanistan its proxy through jihadist organisations.

The objective was to secure the western border from Indian influence. Though Gen. Musharraf later joined the American-led war against the Taliban, the security establishment did not entirely sever ties with militants as Pakistan’s foreign policy doctrine of retaining influence in Afghanistan through militancy never changed. Past American Presidents overlooked this double game and maintained a working relationship with the military. But the Trump administration appears to be getting tougher, raising questions over the future of the alliance itself.

“I don’t think this is the end of the road, but certainly both countries need to make sure that how the trust deficit can be reduced,” said Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies. “The U.S. needs to give assurance to Pakistan that it will act against terrorist groups in Afghanistan who plan and attack inside Pakistan, while Pakistan also needs to allay the U.S. concerns that it will act against the groups on its soil.”

The Americans know that to put pressure on Pakistan, all they need to do is to take a pro-India line. A senior government official told The Hindu that the greater role the Trump administration is offering India in South Asia could prompt Pakistan to rethink its decades-old policy. Yet, Pakistan is left with no choice but to continue to fight the war in Afghanistan, said the official. “If the U.S. is angry, Pakistan has got a new master and financier — China.” (From The Hindu)

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