We’re no match for the US
The parliamentary recommendations for re-engagement with US, in the wake of Salala attack, realistically speaking reflect our chronic obsession with overestimating ourselves and playing to the gallery, rather than taking an objective approach in resolving our differences with the sole superpower of the world.
The recommendations authenticated by the parliament have pushed us into a blind alley by adding an element of rigidity to the whole process. Any concession on these recommendations by the government can easily be construed as an affront to the parliament by its detractors and also provide enough ammunition to the rightist elements – who are deadly against resuming Nato supplies at any cost – to put the government in the line of fire.
The issue should have been handled by the government through normal diplomatic channels by showing leadership in this hour of crisis rather than succumbing to the pressure exerted by the establishment and other vested interests. The architects of the recommendations wrongly believe that Pakistan is in an absolutely unassailable position to dictate terms to America in the ongoing process of recalibrating the scope and nature of relations.
Asking a superpower to apologise for the Salala attack, stop drone attacks and treat Pakistan at par with India in regards to transfer of civil nuclear technology, is tantamount to wishing for the moon. The first thing to be remembered is that our relationship with the US is of a tactical nature and whatever assistance the US has given to Pakistan ever since it joined the war on terror can at best be described as disdainful patronage.
The US has always remained skeptical about our commitment, persistently raising an accusing finger at us for allegedly playing a double game with them. The discovery and killing of OBL in Pakistan, despite our persistent and categorical denials, has dealt a severe blow to whatever credibility we had. The consequences of this episode are quite evident. The Obama administration is now saying that Ayman al-Zawahiri is also in Pakistan.
This permeating mistrust of us is probably the reason that despite the claim by Pakistan that it tipped the US about presence of OBL in Abbottabad, the latter did not take it into confidence about the operation and has also not sought Pakistan’s involvement in the ongoing dialogue with the Taliban. Another very pertinent factor is that the policies of the establishment centring on the concept of strategic depth and continued confrontation with India have failed and done immense damage to Pakistan internally as well as on the global level. All these factors have contributed to lessening our clout in dictating terms either in regards to solution of the Afghan conundrum or overall ambit of Pak-US relations.
The ban on Nato supplies through Pakistan might have created some difficulties for US and Nato forces but these hiccups are not strong enough to force the US to accept our demands. The US has already made alternate arrangements with Central Asian states and Russia to use their land route for those supplies in the eventuality of a dead-lock with Pakistan. It can and is also in a position to airlift those supplies, may be at a much higher cost but that avenue in any case is also available to it.
The US has made it clear that it would not stop drone attacks. It has resumed drone strikes after parliament’s approval of the recommendations daring Pakistan to do whatever it can to stop them. Are we in a position to down them? Certainly not! The imperial pride of US will also not allow it to tender an apology to a country which is no match for it.
There is also no way US would agree to treat Pakistan at par with India viz-a-viz transfer civilian nuclear technology. Our record on nuclear proliferation also precludes any such possibility and above all treating Pakistan at par with India is also inimical to US strategic interests in the region. It is a well known fact that the US is trying to prop up India as counterbalance to China in this region.
Similarly the elements who lend credence to the view that the US is going to pull out from Afghanistan as per the declared schedule also suffer from naiveté of the first order. The US has not built bases in Afghanistan to hand them over to the Afghan government. There are already indications that it might keep its military presence in Afghanistan till 2024. Even if the combatant troops are pulled out by 2014, which looks a remote possibility, there still would be thousands of non-combatants troops staying in Afghanistan.
It is true that America is now desperately looking to re-engage itself with the states of Indo-pacific region, which it had abandoned in the backdrop of the reverses suffered in Vietnam and left it open to China. There is a very strong wave of opinion in the America to assume that responsibility which it could not take up due to its military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. It however does not mean that Afghanistan will be out of its focus.
The purpose of catapulting India as a regional power and giving it an enhanced role in Afghanistan, much to the chagrin of Pakistan, is designed to protect US interests in Afghanistan and possibly keep the door open for active re-engagement, if necessitated by the turn of events. America and its allies are determined to refashion the world before any real threat to their dominance re-emerges. The Arab spring and the manifestation of imperialism through UN in Libya, amply testify to their prowess and designs. The move by the present government to build regional linkages represents a positive paradigm shift that ultimately will benefit Pakistan but any abrupt disconnect with USA or the adoption of a hard line approach is not advisable.
Pakistan while dealing with US must keep in mind the harm that the US can inflict on it, the emerging scenario in the region and its own vulnerabilities. We may think that we are an indispensable part of the American picture of the world but the harsh reality is that we are no more than a tiny detail in the much bigger and long term game plan. Pakistan, to remain relevant to the unfolding developments will have to act pragmatically and make a new beginning unstuck from the hangover of the past and the fear of the rightist and reactionary elements.