Who wins Pakistan vs US? (Hint: Not Pakistan)
There is a serious lack of consistency and realism from our national constitution. One day we are infatuated and besotted with India. The very next day we are ready for war with it. A few days ago we were sacrificing our lives in The US’s war but now we are adamant about squaring off with it. One day we are trying to cosy up as much as possible with Iran while the very next day are giving it a cold shoulder and turning towards Saudi Arabia. On any given day our parliament may pass a resolution unanimously but the same parliament will witness intense disagreement on a similar sort of resolution. Thus, any field of life you’ll consider, you’ll see this inconsistency. So much so, that we are downright self-contradictory sometimes.
A couple of days ago, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security presented its recommendations to the joint session. These took a perfunctory review of foreign policy in general and gave certain guidelines. But the focus was on Pak-US ties. We’ve kept one condition for the resumption of Nato supplies that The US unconditionally apologise for the unwarranted attack on the Salala checkpost. They have also been informed that with the resumption of the supplies, the railways will be used for half the transportation. Thus, it seems we are convinced that The US will say sorry but what if it doesn’t? Moreover, national sovereignty and independence has been stressed greatly while simultaneously asking them for this amount of money in that amount of time. Old habits are hard to break, it seems.
The report also includes talk of establishing relations on a basis of parity. There was also talk of sovereignty and sloganeering that would “show ’em”. But why this sudden awakening to self-respect, national dignity and sovereignty and relational equality? Have we found oil in our country? Or gas reserves? Or has load-shedding ended? Maybe terrorism has ended? Have we established peaceful relations with all our neighbours? Has the railways become sustainable? Have the PIA’s many woes been rectified? If The US does refuse to apologise, all we can do is mutter “Or else…” We are like the salaried servant entreating for a raise who says that, “You better raise my salary or else I will keep working on this salary.”
We are not new to the Americans and neither are they knew to us. Both parties know each other full well. The military might on the basis of which we are huffing and puffing, a large chuck of that might is The US’s bequest. The arms that we have prepared ourselves are the nuclear bombs but what good are they and where can we use them? We don’t have a missile that can reach US territory. Neither do we have any bases around American territory. We have no economic leverage that we can use against the Americans.
Our biggest ‘arms’ are the terrorists that we use as proxies to bleed American and Allied forces. But we shouldn’t forget that these proxies we so soundly rely on, the world has had enough of them and our support of them. If we don’t uproot these centres of export of terrorism and establish our writ in the tribal areas, I fear the world may make some kind of united front against us as it reaches the end of its rope. And much has been done in this regard. We should stop clinging to the notion that we can use these proxies to bring the US or our neighbouring countries under our pressure and get them to agree to our demands. We tried this method against India but could not free and inch of occupied Kashmir. We tried this method in Afghanistan and it backfired badly. We set to bring Afghanistan under our influence but now are ourselves under the influence of terrorism. China is also apprehensive about the activities of terrorists within our territory. If we don’t put a stop to those conducting cross-border terrorism in China, Then China too will soon have had enough of us.
We should accept the hard reality that we are in no position to threaten or pressurise the US. Our betterment is in that we should try to establish control over our own territory. We should protect our own frontiers and try to disassociate as much as we can from the US’ war in Afghanistan. Furthermore, we should try to convince the US and its allies, through our words and actions, that we have nothing to do with the terrorist activities taking place in Afghanistan If our word is not enough, then it can be advised that neutral observers be appointed to the Pak-Afghan borders to ascertain our claim.
The Committee’s report and its recommendations are premised on the assumption that the US is deeply interested and desirous of resuming and bettering relations with us. Maybe those who have come up with these suggestions are not familiar with the workings of the American executive and have no idea about the American public’s feeling. There exists a string antipathy against us there. A majority of the decision makers and decision making institutions over there are convinced that Pakistan cannot be taken for its word and that nay future arrangements with Pakistan must come with airtight guarantees. We’ll have to go a lot, a lot, before we can re-establish our credibility. People not cognisant of this governmental responsibility can afford to sloganeer. But those who realise that, in the given circumstances, a soft stance towards the US will be to the detriment of Pakistan are not even thinking of such campaigns.
China and Iran will be of no help if tensions escalate with the US. China has stopped its bank from investing in the IP gas-pipeline project. Iran doesn’t have the dollars to get its own necessities. The ‘brotherly’ help from Saudi Arabia will come till the US steps in and stops that. The day the US decides to tighten the economic screw, then say what of Saudi Arabia and UAE, no one will give us anything. All the IFIs sing to American tunes. What little we get from them is because the US still sees something of value in us.
Those adamant about keeping the supply lines closed do not realise that if we try to corner the Us on this issue, it will try to get the routes reopened by hook or by crook. For that reason, it has its eyes set on Balochistan and it is not difficult for the US to conduct Libya-like action over there. To generate international consensus, the ‘plight of the Baloch’ question is already under discussion.
We can only use our nuclear ability defensively. And that, too, only against India. It is as useful as a pile of stick bombs against a superpower like the US. Nothing is to be had from all our pointless slogan. The conditions for mutual relations will be but of course determined by our respective power and size. Nowhere in the world will a country get more than its power and clout entitles it to. The best course of action for us is to be cognisant of that and then pursue our interests. We shouldn’t be too big for our boots but we also shouldn’t back down from what is rightfully ours. We have done so in the past. Rulers have bartered off Pakistan’s national interests to safeguard their tenures. This, at least, should stop.
The writer is one of Pakistan’s most widely read columnists.