Friday July 01, 2022

American transition

February 07, 2021

After dropping nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities – Hiroshima and Nagasaki – at the fag end of the Second World War, the US emerged both economically and militarily as the strongest country on the globe.

The Soviet Union did attempt to make an opposing block of nations under the Warsaw Pact but soon it saw its own demise as a state in the early nineties after its humiliating defeat and withdrawal from Afghanistan. This left the world leadership forum open for the US which became the sole superpower.

Under such circumstances, countries in different continents wisely chose to carve out smart foreign policies aimed at protecting their respective vital national interests while maintaining better diplomatic ties with all states, especially the sole superpower, simultaneously avoiding alignment with any of the opposing groups in different conflict zones. For Pakistan such a policy would have been ideal and exactly in line with the foreign policy vision of our founding father who believed in the doctrine of non-alignment. According to him, the essence of Pakistan's foreign policy was "Peace with all, and enmity with none".

In his broadcast talk to the people of the US in Feb 1948, the Quaid said: "Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We don't cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the policy of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contributions to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed nations as per the united nation’s charter."

The Quaid firmly believed in the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and peaceful settlement of bilateral disputes – as laid down in the UN charter. He was sold to the ideas of democracy, pluralism, market economy and social justice. We, however, unfortunately failed to follow the true spirit of the message he left and unwisely got aligned as members of some international pacts like SEATO and CENTO. Resultantly, when India shamelessly invaded East Pakistan, the US did not intervene saying that SEATO and CENTO were relevant only in case of communist aggression. This encouraged Indian aggressors to violate the UN charter with impunity. At present, in the fast changing global environment where China is emerging as the economically strongest country of the World, the US still retains technological and military edge with a $1.6 trillion defence budget. Under this changing global environment, we need to make our erstwhile dormant foreign policy more vibrant, proactive and dynamic.

It is also understood that with change in leadership in the US, we should not be pinning high hopes for Joe Biden’s attention to South Asia for two main reasons. First, Biden’s victory became possible not entirely because of his dynamic personality or Democrat voters, but also due to the overwhelming support of Trump haters. Biden’s victory notwithstanding, Trumpism is still a reality that can create internal trouble for Biden's government in times to come.

Second, unprecedented ruthless Covid-19 attacks – resulting in record high fatalities and a resultant nose-diving of economic indicators – will keep Biden engaged internally. Besides, the US's strategic alignment with India and Israel to contain China and subdue Iran respectively, may not permit Biden to make meaningful positive gestures towards Pakistan in the foreseeable future. The US will, therefore, continue to oppose CPEC to thwart China's ever-expanding influence under the intercontinental OBOR economic concept. And, despite the desire to revive nuclear agreement with Iran, America will continue its full support for Israel.

In this geopolitical environment, Pakistani policy planners are expected not only to forge national unity and reinforce its fragile economy but also carve out a more proactive foreign policy ensuring engagement with the new US leadership including the president, vice president and members of both houses of the Congress to convey Pakistan’s view on the realities of South Asia and Indian state terrorism. It is heartening to note that Biden seems to be morally committed and his policies are expected to be more consistent and predictable in the wider global context. With his intimate knowledge of South Asia, he is also not expected to leave this region entirely to the whims of Indian leadership. This needs to be exploited.

Biden as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had firmly stood with Bosnian Muslims against Serb and Croat atrocities in which 350,000 Bosnians were slaughtered to death. Besides, on assuming power he has immediately reversed the travel ban on some Muslim countries. It is hoped he will also be concerned about human rights violations and Indian atrocities in Kashmir.

According to one assessment, the US is not expected to undermine its ties with Pakistan because it needs the latter’s support generally for regional stability – and particularly for the Afghan peace process. American designated Defence Secretary Gen LIoyd Austin’s statement, in which he appreciated Pakistan’s role in bringing peace in Afghanistan, is encouraging. Besides, it will be naive to expect that Biden’s newly selected team will be pro-Pakistan. It will surely move according to the dictates of US interests which warrant positive engagement with important regional countries like Pakistan.

Pakistan, therefore, needs to pursue following objectives: revival of strategic dialogue; US support for the resolution of the Kashmir issue and an end to Indian atrocities in Kashmir; US help to pressurise India to stop terrorist activities along our western borders; financial and technical help for sealing and proper management of our western borders to stop terrorist infiltration and narcotic and human trafficking; graduated repatriation of three million Afghan refugees; reimbursement of the outstanding Coalition Support Fund; removal of restrictions on the construction of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline; repatriation of Afia Siddiqi; improvements in bilateral trade and economic activities; and revival of military training facilities for Pakistan.

The writer is chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence Production.