Standing together against terrorism
US South Asia policy is an alarming indication of Pakistan’s foreign relations becoming weaker in the region.
With Pakistan rejecting any blame for exporting terrorism, the US is romancing India as a sound partner in its ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, thus isolating Pakistan on a global front.
Pakistan’s defensive strategy against allegations is failing to sustain its relations and the growing bond between US and India is forming the world’s opinion of Pakistan as the state that lets terrorists run free on its ground.
The trio — US, India, and Afghanistan are developing a stern narrative against terrorists and it’s reasonable for Pakistan to join them since it can’t beat them.
Pakistan must take a pragmatic approach to empower its position in the region as a proactive entity against militancy inside its border and across the region.
“As worrying as Trump’S South Asian policy is for Pakistan, there is no option for both countries but to continue engaging,” said foreign policy expert Moeed Yusuf.
“US and Pakistan must find common ground in Afghanistan and work on policy development together,” said Yusuf.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson while visiting Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, promoted the objective to work together against terrorism and demanded cooperation from Pakistan.
Tillerson’s visit can be summarised in three accounts — portraying Afghanistan as the sole victim of terrorism, empowering India as an ally, and blaming Pakistan as an enabler of terrorism.
Furthermore, Tillerson’s remarks undermined Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism and reiterated that the country must be more committed to its role against militancy.
“the US has not said anything new about Pakistan’s struggle in the fight against terrorism,” said analyst and senior journalist IA Rehman.
“In regards to Tillerson’s visit, the growing US-India relations have irked Pakistan but we must realise that confrontation against the US while ignoring our own problems related to terrorism will not lead to solutions.”
In response to US secretary of state’s remarks, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif highlighted security risks to Pakistan from India and Afghanistan and said that the US should allow its policymakers to frame its Afghan policy rather than failed army generals.
“The role of the US state department has minimised in generating a new policy as generals are given a higher priority in strategic development, ignoring the failures of the war in Afghanistan,” said Qamar Cheema.
“Pakistan must also clear its policy on de-radicalisation and countermeasures against non-state actors so there is less international pressure on us to act with more determination,” he added.
However, Pakistan is putting regional ties under risk by acting defensive rather than opting for counter-terrorism measures that serve national interests.
“US and Pakistan have diverging interests in Afghanistan but need to coordinate for regional stability,” said Yusuf.”
“The main question is how both countries propose to find a solution without the involvement of the other as they cannot work independently on the matter,” said Yusuf.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently said his country will not be a part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) unless Pakistan provides its trade access to India through its border.
The unreasonable demand by Afghan president shows serious neglect for Pakistan’s security interests and brews more hostility in the region.
“It’s debatable whether trades routes across the region through Pakistan pose a risk to the country’s security,” said Moeed Yusuf.
“Pakistan is at the position of benefitting most from regional integration through trade to ensure its economic progress,” said Yusuf.
Putting aside its bilateral differences with India, Pakistan needs to establish itself as an active participant against militancy and improve its ties with the US by taking responsibility for domestic insurgency.
Moreover, countermeasures against local extremist elements will also benefit Pakistan in socio-economic development and stabilise socio-political crisis.
“US and India have a strategic partnership and Pakistan must not weigh itself in this equilibrium,” said strategic analyst Qamar Cheema.
“The partnership between US and India is not to anger Pakistan or benefit Afghanistan but to enable its capability to engage in Asia Pacific.”
The US and its allies have established a strong foothold in the region and Pakistan will benefit more if it acts in the interests of its neighbouring countries to ensure peace and stability inside and outside its borders.
Terrorism has crippled Pakistan but the world pictures it as choosing to remain ignorant while terrorists persistently operate and recruit in the land.
“The world needs to reconsider how Afghanistan benefits on banking on India as an active participant against terrorism and spiting Pakistan,” said Yusuf.
“A change in policy is required where Afghanistan revalues Pakistan’s efforts and cooperation in fighting the war against militancy,” Yusuf added.
Without succumbing to pressure from US and India, Pakistan’s cooperation in developing Afghanistan policy will stop others from considering the country as an enabler of terrorism.
“Pakistan needs to reconsider its anger towards the US increasing its praise for India as a strong ally against terrorism,” said Yusuf.
To avoid isolation and benefit from economic developments, Pakistan must reevaluate its counter-terrorism policies and quit prolonging implementation of security policies.
Implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) and forming further vigilant measures against radicalisation are the most viable options to improve Pakistan’s foreign relations and ensure economic progress.