Foreign policy and security

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What a top military official told a group of media persons underlines some of the paradigm issues faced by the government and army in their interaction with the US, Afghanistan and India. Pakistan is not taken on board when the US and its Nato allies formulate the Afghan policy despite the fact that this policy has an immediate and direct impact on the law and order, economy and people of Pakistan. Islamabad is, however, blamed for the consequences of the blunders committed by policy makers who lack awareness about the fragile ethnic balance in Afghan society, its tribal structures or the traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution. Even the Afghan government, which itself is more of a part than a solution of the Afghan problem, does not spare any occasion to take a fling at Pakistan. One would readily agree with the top official that Pakistan has to be taken on board when policies about Afghanistan are being formulated. Realistically speaking, however as long as Pakistan continues to depend heavily on US financial assistance, it will have to put up with pressures of this type.

The army has fought three wars with India. That border clashes are by no means infrequent indicates that Pakistan faces threats from the Indian side which is known for its hegemonic tendencies. Islamabad, however, has to realise that in view of the fast growing and much bigger Indian economy, Pakistan cannot hope to compete with it in acquisition of military hardware. Any arms race with India would lead to diversion of more resources from education, health and infrastructure, reducing the pace of economic development and thus weakening defence.

Pakistans India policy must not remain frozen in history. Depending more on diplomacy rather than weapons, Pakistan should concentrate on improving governance and economic development. Islamabad should stand for peace as it cannot resolve the disputes through war. It should begin with getting the minor disputes resolved through talks, keeping the more intractable ones on the backburner while continuing to maintain a principled position on them.