Friday July 01, 2022

How best Pakistan can deal with India, Afghanistan

By MAK Lodhi
September 02, 2016


In a span of 10 years, India and the United States have become so close allies that the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, didn’t even obliquely hint at inhuman and barbaric killings and state oppression in the Indian Occupied Kashmir during his press talk along with his Indian counterpart Sushma Sawaraj on August 30 in New Delhi.

On the second day of visit ( August 31), he spoke more categorically about the need for Pakistan to eliminate indigenous terrorist networks. He particularly mentioned Haqqani network of Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which, he alleged not unrealistically, continued terrorist activities in the neighbouring countries.

Both India and Afghanistan have been victims of horrible attacks by non-state actors (read terrorists) who orchestrate them on foreign soils. Pakistan counters such allegations with a standard response that its Zarb-e-Azb campaign is against all types of terrorists and that it makes no distinction. But this time even this much was not said and our foreign office preferred to remain silent for sometime at least. 

While New Delhi reverberated with terms of ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’ during John Kerry’s visit, a distinction Pakistan is said to be making to the best satisfaction of the host country. But it almost fell on deaf ears in Pakistan.

Has it ever categorically stated that it would ever launch an offensive against Afghan Taliban who allegedly operate from its territory and destabilise anti-Taliban government of Afghanistan?  

Haqqani network’s latest victim was the American University of Kabul which its terrorists raided on August 24 killing eight students, one professor, three security guards and four Afghan soldiers. In an op-ed article published on September 1 in New York Times, it is considered to be “an attack on Afghanistan’s future”.

A terrorist attack at Pathankot airbase early this January occurred soon after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore to greet prime minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. It may be recalled that former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee made an epoch-making visit to Lahore on Feb 20, 1998. The first news he got on his return to New Delhi was that a Hindu wedding procession in Jammu had been bombed.

Both times Indian leaders’ bonhomie attempts were responded in very bad taste in the mouth. Both times, prime minister of Pakistan, who happened to be the same person--Mr Nawaz Sharif--was just helpless.

That Pakistan opens any channel of cordial relations with India, to begin with, is still abhorred by the deep state. The political government has to toe the line. Unless India settles the Kashmir issue in accordance with UN resolutions and holds plebiscite in the Valley, no talks, no business, no parleys, even no ‘hello-hi’ should be held between the two countries.

Pakistan, therefore, remains stuck in the groove. This position is actually against the norms and style of conducting business between nation states--big and small. The US and China are rivals, but they happen to be the best business partners. The same is the US position versus Russia. Both countries are holding further negotiations on a number of issues, including Ukraine and Syria and there will be genuine bargaining--give and take.

Holding talks even during a state of war happens to be the best mechanism humans have ever evolved. Like people, countries change positions, though at a slow pace but a steady stream of understanding and mutuality is furthered, considering all pros and cons. It often happens that usually the usurper sheds weight in the end. Late Vajpayee was sincerely pursuing a solution of Kashmir problem. But if we don’t talk, nothing comes out as the distance between the opposite poles happens to be the longest.

Pakistan’s position regarding Afghanistan is rather worse and more embarrassing. Since Soviet forces left Afghanistan in 1989, we considered Afghanistan our second home. We hosted Afghan refugees, mostly Pashtun tribes who were terrified by socialist regimes. We hosted the biggest number of displaced persons. Their stay over decades ruined everything. Some of their gifts include marijuana, heroin, Kalashnikov, illicit trade, smuggling. They are still there. But what happened now? They burnt Pakistan’s flag and raised anti-Pakistan slogans at Torkham border. It is Pakistan which had been providing them everything--bread and butter included.

Pakistan allowed land trade route all the way from Karachi to Kabul throughout current history. There was no gate at Torkham crossing. They could come and go without documents. Kidnapping for ransom was their ancient tradition of making money. On our part, we left tribal areas where their cousins live as God-forsaken lands. No development, no progress, no schools, no dispensary, nothing. In the past they made some greenbacks through tourism. Afghan Jihad, as it was dubbed, provided them ideal conditions to indulge in nefarious activities. They were already in the mould of medieval Muslims, offering prayers five times a day, but smuggling, narcotics trade and gun-running was their way of life as devout Muslims.

Over the centuries, nothing has been dearer to them than a gift of sword or a gun or a rocket-launcher. Courtesy the US and Saudis, we provided them dream-come-true weapons. 

The result was obvious. We are still reaping bad harvests. Our army is our pride, but it got kill-bill sort of free proxies. If the deep state still thinks that one day they will rule the roost in Afghanistan, the land we dubbed as our strategic depth, we are living in fool’s paradise. It has amounted to our strategic death actually.

India was more popular in Afghanistan even during Hamid Karzai’s tenure as president. Ashraf Ghani thinks no better about Pakistan. And last of all, we have lost our backer, the country that initially pushed us into the quagmire – the United States of America.

With a sale of military hardware worth $10 billion and raising the trade bar to $five billion per year, India and the US are the new bed fellows. They cherish the same dreams – to be the rulers in their spheres and worlds. They uphold the same designs--countering Pak-China nexus.

Isn’t it time for Pakistan to realise that Afghan Taliban will never deliver, and if they do, it will be like Mulla Omer’s Afghanistan, not a progressive Afghanistan.

Isn’t it time for Pakistan to realise it shouldn’t put all eggs in China’s basket? Nations cherish multi-pronged relations with all. India and Afghanistan are Pakistan’s two next-door neighbors, border to border, miles and miles. We must do good business with them. We must realise what the US, which made us non-Nato ally, is to our advantage as well. We must infuse new spirit in our stinking foreign policy.

We must make the deep state realise that Zarb-e-Azb is just the beginning of a new thinking after four decades. It needs to come out of its old skin completely and comprehensively. Pakistan must befriend India and Afghanistan by uprooting terrorism from its soil once and for all. It must realise that Kashmiris movement for liberation is suffering because of terrorism-related allegations because even a genuine struggle is marred by the stigma of terrorism.