In the wake of eruption of the latest tension between Pakistan and the United States we are being constantly fed with the juicy slogan of new terms of engagement with the sole superpower. Let me assert at the outset that Pakistan needs to review the entire spectrum of it’s outdated cold war era foreign policy instead of restricting the possible change to the volatile and mercurial ties between Islamabad and Washington. Pakistan joined the Western camp in the first place out of fear of India. That fear must disappear as Pakistan is a nuclear power. From now on the two rivals are not likely to go to war. The only alternative therefore is to live in peace with our eastern neighbor without of course compromising our principled stand on our core issues including Kashmir and water among others. Once Pakistan and India normalise their relations there will no need for my country to cling to Washington for security. I am not ruling out the imperative need of friendly relations with the western world led by USA. In support of my thesis I shall argue firstly that a major shift in our traditional engagement with USA is not possible before addressing the root cause which is a perceived existential security threat from India which fortunately no longer exists. Secondly Pakistan cannot sustain democracy without transforming itself from a national security to a national welfare state. Our security dilemma is obviously compounded primarily by the real or imagined but outdated threat of India. Anybody who is keen to redefine new terms of engagement with the United States without advocacy of an environment of peace and cooperation in South Asia may be living in a paradise of his/her fertile imagination. Our security-obsessed mindset in relation to India is perhaps the greatest hindrance in the way of a mutually beneficial and a reciprocally respectable relationship with our erstwhile cold war and currently terror war allies.
I am also convinced that our foreign policy establishment is apparently not interested to envision and practice a meaningful shift in our dependence upon the United States come what may. Our recent responses to US provocations look peripheral, superficial, unrealistic and emotional. Let me conclude by warning our foreign policy warriors that the never ending Indo-Pak cold war will push us into the fate experienced by the defunct USSR. By blaming everything on India we may be sticking to the wrong side of history. While I have no love lost for Indian intransigence I believe that avoidable confrontation with India is a zero sum game .Perhaps a serious look at the PPP Manifesto 2008 may be a good starting point to clear the clouds of war and hatred from the horizons of nuclear armed South Asia.
B A MALIK,
Islamabad, January 21.