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Editorial

April 21, 2017

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Message from the US

Message from the US

An unexpected visit to Pakistan from the US National Security Advisor General McMaster earlier this week left observers wondering what message he brought. After having met both the top civil and military brass in the country, it seems McMaster left them feeling defensive. An ISPR statement declared that Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had informed the US NSA that Pakistan rejects allegations of using proxies from its soil. This came after McMaster had publically stated that it was in Pakistan’s interest to fight against all terrorist groups and ‘prioritise diplomacy over proxies.’ The PM’s Office acknowledged that the meeting focused on counterterrorism and regional affairs. Heading to India next, McMaster could simply have been following the Trump administration’s brief to mediate between hostile neighbours. Regional tensions in South Asia have been high and India and Pakistan have been blaming each other for their internal problems. The exact details of the meeting may not be public, but it is unlikely that McMaster will have entertained Pakistan’s claims of being a victim of terrorism.

McMaster’s quick-fire tour of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan seems to have been much more of a scouting mission for the Trump administration before it formulates a clear line on the region. For now, the signals coming seem to be positive as far as mediation between Pakistan and India is concerned. However, the use of the Mother of All Bombs in Afghanistan has raised questions over how much the US truly believes in diplomacy trumping militarism in its policies. Peace in Afghanistan remains a key priority for the Americans despite their confused signals over how exactly they plan to achieve it. In the last years of Obama, Pakistan had been tasked with bringing selected Afghan Taliban leaders to the talking table while being told to act against the Haqqani Network and other militant groups. McMaster seems to have come with no specific brief from the Trump administration. Its strategy for the region remains under review, and the use of MOAB last week makes things even more alarming. The visit also seems like an attempt to send a message to Russia and China that the US is not abandoning its interests in the region this soon. Amidst the changing global balance of power and the failure of US-led policies to bring the fight against terrorism to a conclusion, the US fears being marginalised by the rising influence of Russia and China. The US offer of mediating between India and Pakistan should probably be seen in this light. But the true impact of McMaster’s visit will only become clear as the Trump government makes its intentions in the region clearly known.

 

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