‘Rebalancing’ the US and the pivot to China

  • Will Pak play Kissinger or write itself out of the new order?

In order to balance threats from India and to fulfil the strategic depth’s appetite, Pakistan has always looked towards the United States for economic and military aid. Both have come — at tremendous costs to Pakistan’s economic and political sovereignty.

The US used Pakistan’s Badaber base for its reconnaissance flights until the USSR shot one down leading to the Gary Powers incident in 1962. Pakistan had already chosen the capitalist camp as early as the 50s by joining the CEATO and SENTO. The reality check for Pakistan came in the 65 and 71 Pak-India wars. Uncle Sam never came to help. The ‘friend’, however, imposed an arms embargo on both India and Pakistan thereby weakening the later as the former already possessed weapons of soviet origins.

General Zia’s coup d’état tightened the noose around Pakistan once more but the alliance was brought to life once again as soon as the Russians decided to change regimes and brought the cold war theatre to Afghanistan. Again, Uncle Sam moved to declare Pakistan a ‘failed’ and ‘terrorist’ state just before 9/11, following which Pakistan officially became the official non-NATO ally in the war against terrorism. After all, Pakistan was either ‘with them or against them’.

CPEC is a cog, a very important cog, in the One Belt One Road initiative and it is also inevitably the final nail in the US’s position as the sole world hegemon

First, under General Raheel followed by General Bajwa, the army became battle hardened, not to mention that it was these men with crossed swords on their shoulders who time and again were tempted to enter Islamabad and chose not to do so in favour of the country, and Pakistan took the Great Leap Forward against terrorism, taking the menace head on. Successful operations followed. Terrorist hideouts destroyed, terrorists killed or driven out. Now, the security establishment is seeking to defeat the ideological roots of asymmetric violence in the region.

Enter the dragon, and Pakistan finds the changing world order’s dirty laundry washing up on its shores. CPEC is signed off and Pakistan gets $50 billion and more. This challenged the once unipolar hegemon proving that the world had already become multi-polar with at least three powers facing off.

The game is afoot and the US cancels the $300 million Coalition Support Fund, uses FATF grey listing, uses the NSG, publically threats the IMF and cuts IMET military training for Pakistan in a move to pressurise the latter, following which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo found himself visiting Pakistan to ‘reset’ Pak-US ties as Imran’s government was sworn in. The chief and PM gave a clear message on Martyrs Day regarding the civilian-military relationship, saying that ‘both were on the same page’ and rumours of a rift were ‘baseless’. Pakistan finds itself in a stronger position compared to the 70s. It’s moving closer to the eastern camp. While the US tries to either pull Pakistan’s foot back or break the foot completely. Pakistan is no longer obliged to do more. In the general’s very apt words, ‘Pakistan has done enough and now the world must do more’.

The present political leadership backed by battle hardened professional generals have refused to regain ‘client state’ status. On the other hand, China has established itself as a major inexcusable player in the new great game. It has strategic, financial and security interests in the region. In the present century, security interests directly coincide with economic interests. This irks Uncle Sam and so it moves closer to India. India has always had an ambition to become the region’s leader and Pakistan has always thwarted such designs seeking to build ties with Delhi on equal footings.

As China strengthened its position in South Asia, the Obama administration chose to ‘pivot to Asia’. Pakistan has more to bargain with than the US realises. One example: nearly 575,000 gallons of fuel were being transported across the Pak-Afghan border in 2007. India is China’s biggest trading partner and with the Trump administration’s bigotry and bullying, it is only the US that fill ultimately find itself weakened in the South Asian theatre and the ‘pivot’ will ultimately by dented.

CPEC is a cog, a very important cog, in the One Belt One Road initiative and it is also inevitably the final nail in the US’s position as the sole world hegemon. The substitution of US military equipment with Chinese military technology will further cement Pak-China relations leaving Uncle Sam to bite the dust.

Pakistan may considerably gain from the changing power dynamics if it chooses to play Kissinger with the US and China. The Shah must place Pakistan’s own economic interests followed by security interests at the heart of the country’s foreign policy. Maintaining peaceful relations with the US at least on the face of it must be given importance but increasing Pakistan’s economic prowess with the dragon’s support must be the country’s primary concern. US-EU relations have also seen a marked downward trajectory. Pakistan can explore that and make the European nations see that a smaller South Asian nation may hold the key to their region’s economic future. What remains to be seen in whether Pakistan will be bold enough and play Kissinger or will it write itself out of the new world order due to the sheer incapacity of its policy makers. All eyes on Islamabad now.


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