Pakistan has moved away from strategic depth policy: US envoy-designate


In a break from the usual criticism of Pakistan’s policy toward Afghanistan, US ambassador-designate to Pakistan Richard Olson said on Tuesday that the country has moved away from the old strategic thinking of finding strategic depth in Afghanistan, in the event of a conflict with India. Olson, nominated by President Barack Obama to be successor to Cameron Munter as top American diplomat to the key South Asian country, told lawmakers in his confirmation hearing that the positive development in Islamabad needs to be encouraged. The career diplomat, who until recently served as a senior diplomat in Kabul, cited to Capitol Hill Pakistani actions as well as the policy statements made by its political leaders that their country has no designs to use Afghanistan as strategic backyard.
“On the question of, this has been a doctrine that Pakistanis over the years have talked about strategic depth. And, one of the ideas that Afghanistan represents strategic depth against a potential conflict with India.
“My sense is that the Pakistani military and Pakistani government have moved away from that. Foreign Minister (Hina Rabbani) Khar has made some public comments about moving away from the doctrine of strategic depth,” he noted, when Republican Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker sought Olson’s views on the issue. Senator Corker from Tennessee raised the issue when he referred to the question of Pakistan’s (past) quest for strategic depth in the region and concerns about Indian influence in Afghanistan. Responding to the question, the ambassador-designate also referred to Pakistan’s military steps toward that end. “Chief of the Army Staff Gen (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani has redeployed his forces internally to deal with the internal threat, and heavily towards the border (with Afghanistan) to deal with the threats emanating from that region.” “So, I think there is a basis at a strategic level for some further discussion with the Pakistanis. I think these are frankly positive developments that we would like to encourage, as Pakistan looks to its strategic position.”
The remarks by the diplomat came days after Islamabad’s ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman strongly advocated to a major security forum that Pakistan has no desire to treat Afghanistan as its strategic backyard. In his answer, Olson also noted that “it is important that discussion (on such issues) take place against the context of some predictability in the overall (US-Pakistan) relationship.”
As ambassador, the career diplomat said, he would hope to bring to the relationship some sense that the US wants to replace a transitional relationship with a long-term ties with Pakistan. In this respect, he noted that the US assistance for Pakistan helps show that “our relationship is not short-term but long-term.”


Comments are closed.