The announcement of US President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan and South Asia policy has generated a new and diverse debate among scholars and opinion makers. Trump is attempting to hold Pakistan responsible for all the failed policies of his predecessors. The word ‘safe havens’ frequently used by the US after each military failure on battle ground to provide itself a psychological relief. Its constant pursuit of partnering India in Afghanistan is also being associated with so called ‘safe haven’ in Pakistan by painting the causality.
However, Trump’s speech not only unveiled, to some extent, the hidden agenda behind retaining the troops in Afghanistan but also provided the reflection of policy aiming to achieve various strategic objectives in foreseeable future in region. One can easily identify the US’s lack of interest in long-lasting political settlement in Afghanistan till the time Afghan Taliban accepts America’s terms and conditions. US is emphasizing Pakistan to wage war with Afghan Taliban on larger level instead of asking Pakistan to persuade them for peace talks.
The drone attack on Mullah Mansoor was the practical illustration in favor of such arguments. Various drone attacks entirely sabotaged the peaceful dialogues with Taliban when Pakistan built the consensus inside for dialogues after painstaking attempts. In this way, US may find variety of reasons to justify and resume its presence in region regardless of the destructive consequences for regional people. This strategy can be helpful for America but it is totally catastrophic for regional peace and economic stability.
As far as the strategic objectives of US are concerned, by resuming presence for indefinite time in Afghanistan, we need to understand the repercussions by considering the broader political landscape of south Asia. First of all, it focuses to ensure Pakistan’s acceptance on status quo in Kashmir.
In this way, US will also provide imputes to developing partnership with India because it is the essence of Pax Indo-Americana. India is crucial for US to manage the strategic affairs in South Asia. Second, Pakistan’s nuclear capacity does not ever fit into the US’ calculated boxes. Trump many times shared his grave opposition against the strategic assets of Pakistan.
However, Pakistan managed to secure the status of nuclear state. For now, aiming at the deterrence capability, US want to influence the deterrence strategies and capacities of Pakistan by all means. Similarly, development of warheads on the part of Pakistan, in order to counter the Indian nuclear development, can also be one of the viable targets of the US.
Moreover, the rising influence of China and Russia in the region is hard to digest for America. Several American interests might be compromised in the region owing to this influence. US can best create obstacle for these development only with its substantial and indefinite presence in Afghanistan. Along with that, China’s great ambitions including One Belt One Road (OBOR) can be impeded via this presence. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the part of OBOR initiative of China as it has started to operate actively in the region.
After the announcement of Trump, Pakistan set on to build regional consensus against America. It is a calculated move. Pakistan is now focusing on the mutual and regional relations as never before. Russia seems in the priority list and relations with China are already amicable. Counter strategy of Pakistan in diplomatic warfare appears to be effective and operational. Deterrence Strategies of Pakistan are already achieving the desired objectives. Above all, Pakistan’s plan to build the fence on Durand line is on its way which will not only serves to Pakistan but also impede the certain American ambitions.
Pakistan’s position does not allow it to entertain the American demands anymore. When it comes to nuclear developments, where Pakistan always remains conscious, it will not halt its any program. Especially when Pakistan is well aware with the fact that US is providing the generous cooperation to India for further armaments. After making the civil nuclear deal with India, supporting the membership in Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and providing the advance technology for major arms build-up, Pakistan has made all the calculations to ensure the viability of the its strategic as well as economic interests vis-à-vis China and Afghanistan.
The Pre-Trump era has already provided the comprehensive insights of US affairs that will also assist comprehend the strategic picture in South Asia. Keeping in view the strategic moves and diplomatic initiatives, one can be realistically optimistic that Pakistan has orchestrated its policies to manage the Pax Indo-Americana in South Asia.
*Baber Ali Bhatti, Associated with Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a think-tank based in Islamabad
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