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US-Pakistan relationship is broken, says Moeed Yusuf

By Our Correspondent
September 16, 2018

The US-Pakistan relationship is broken and there’s a disconnect between the two countries.

These views were expressed by Moeed Yusuf, associate vice-president, Asia Centre, US Institute for Peace, Washington DC, while addressing a gathering at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday evening.

He put the onus of this situation on the Afghanistan issue.

“The relationship is broken not because there’s no conversation but because there’s mistrust,” he said, adding that there was deep-rooted angst on both sides.

“The mistrust arises because there is no convergence of interests on Afghanistan,” he said.

The US had the same old complaint against Pakistan, namely that Pakistan was not doing enough in Afghanistan to stem the insurgency, he said.

From the US perspective, Yusuf said, even after the 17-year investment in Afghanistan, the Taliban were nowhere near defeat. “The US feels that the Taliban are operating out of Pakistan.”

In Pakistan, he said, the thinking was that Pakistan had done more than enough in this regard and was under no obligation to do more.

Pakistan’s position, he said, was driven by the prospect of a backlash. “Both factions are brutally rational,” Yusuf said.

“In my view, the only aspect where the US and Pakistan could work together and where their interests converge is a speedy solution whereby both come together and work out a solution that is acceptable to all factions to the conflict. Facilitation of the role in this regard has to be prodded by Pakistan and honestly speaking, I don’t see that happening,” Yusuf said.

He said that there was a window of opportunity that would exist up until the end of October when elections were to be held in Afghanistan. After that, the prospects would just diminish. “After winter, things might get worse. So we just have a few months,” he said.

He said that US-China interests in Afghanistan fully converged. Ultimately, the US-Pakistan connect would have to include China.

The short talk was followed by a question-answer session which far outlasted the actual talk.

Role of third parties

A day earlier, the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Karachi campus, was host to a lecture by Moeed Yusuf, associate vice-president, Asia Centre, US Institute of Peace, on India-Pakistan nuclear conflicts and US crisis management.

The talk and the ensuing discussion were based on MrYusuf’s book, “Brokering peace in nuclear environments: US crisis management in South Asia”.

The book proposed the theory of brokered bargaining to study regional nuclear crises, specifically the US’s role in crisis management. Drawing upon India-Pakistan crises since the nuclear blasts of 1998, the Kargil stand-off of 1999, Mumbai attacks, the surgical strikes episode of 2016, Dr Yusuf explained the risks of India-Pakistan crises and how they intersected with the interests of the US, and other great powers and the two countries’ ability to make independent decisions.

The discussion was moderated by Dr Huma Baqai, Associate Dean, IBA, with General (retd) Tariq Ghazi, former defence secretary, and Jamshed Hashmi, former chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Authority, as panelists.

Yusuf highlighted the role of third parties in bilateral conflicts. He said that regional matters were not bilateral. They were regional. “You have to recognise the role of third parties,” he said, adding that rejecting their role meant strengthening the hands of your opponents.

He cited the Indo-Pak Kargil conflict of 1999 and said that because of the nuclear element, the two sides sought US mediation and said that the nuclear element motivated their drive to de-escalate.

He said that Pakistan would bank on China as the third party mentor while India would bank on the US for the purpose. Pakistan, he said, didn’t trust the US.

“It is all a story of attaining leverage,” he said.

India and Pakistan didn’t trust the US information, yet they had to bank on it as they didn’t have their own sources. In the stand-off of 1999, he said, a CIA report said that Pakistan was moving its nuclear arsenal, a claim which was all wrong. In crisis moments, he said India and Pakistan were more dependent on third parties.

He said that in the case of Kargil, the US was partial towards India. He said no doubt the influence of the US was waning and that of China was on the way up, yet the naval position of the US was unchallengeable. He dismissed the idea that the days of the unipolar world were over.

General (retd) Tariq Ghazi, said that the book dealt vividly with the subject of de-escalation.

“The US, as a third party, wants to foist itself as it has vested interests,” he said.

Talking about the Kargil stand-off, he said that it was not a state operation but “the brainchild of a nut case”. “Our only fear is that the US wants de-escalation of Pakistan’s nuclear capability and let India have the role of a regional power,” he said.

He said that the nuclear factor didn’t figure in the Mumbai issue of 2008.

Referring sarcastically to brokering peace by the US, former chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Jamshed Hashmi, enumerated the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US, US aggression against Korea in the early 1950s, the US threat to use tactical nuclear weapons against China, the Vietnam imbroglio, Iraq, the overthrow of Mossadegh’s democratic government in Iran, and the raid by US commandos on Abbottabad to get Osama Bin Laden.

The discussion was followed by an animated question-answer session. One of the questioners bluntly refused to accept the thesis of the US being a broker and said that the US was nothing but an unmitigated warmonger.