LAHORE - Strategic partnership between the United States and India would likely remain a constant for the foreseeable future.

This was stated in a brief published Friday by the Institute for Policy Reforms . Titled ‘Deepening India-US Strategic Partnership and Pakistan’s Concerns’ and written by Riaz Mohammad Khan, well known Pakistan diplomat and former foreign secretary, the brief offers new perspectives on this important development.

The partnership has gained force since 2006 when USA and India signed the bilateral nuclear treaty. The recently signed military Logistics Exchange Agreement and USA’s decision to hold three-way talks along with Afghanistan are its latest links. The security dimension of the US-India partnership is a concern for Pakistan.

Improved relations between USA and India have come at a time of creeping acrimony between Pakistan and USA. The shift in Pakistan-US bilateral relations was only to be expected. The two countries have had close relations at various times in history, but they have been based on narrow security interests. Contesting portrayal of Pakistan by the US President as a ‘dysfunctional state’, the brief stated that Pakistan has been sucked into cross currents that are ‘dangerous and destabilizing’. Overcoming these critical challenges demands introspection and astute leadership.

However, Pakistan is still important to the West, especially to help political stability in Afghanistan and in combating terrorism. Policy circles in USA, abetted by Afghan leaders, hold Pakistan responsible for USA’s difficulties in Afghanistan and for instability in that country. Pakistan’s perceived support for the Haqqani network has come to symbolize its ‘perfidious behaviour’. Of course, US forgets its own myriad policy errors in Afghanistan.

Yet the brief reminded that “we need to think why … Pakistan has always ended up siding with the most regressive elements in Afghanistan”. At critical times, hard-line Mujahedin and then the Taliban did not heed Pakistan’s advice. It is time to disavow the misplaced notion that Taliban are our asset and will be influenced by us.

Today, globally, points of conflicts exist around failing states and societies. This is the time for Pakistan to take some important decisions. We cannot take responsibility for pushing Taliban leaders towards reconciliation instead we should clearly declare that we will welcome their reaching out directly to Kabul. Also, we must not allow use of our territory for operations in Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan is important for us. Peaceful and stable Afghanistan will allow factors of our shared culture, history, and ethnicity to come into full play to benefit bilateral relations.

This will also restrain and discourage any outside collusion with elements in Kabul against Pakistan.

This reorientation will help us in other areas. For many years, India has pursued RAW aided subversion in Pakistan. Boldly, though implicitly, Modi has accepted as much. He may have been prompted by an assumption that Pakistan is widely perceived in the West as a breeding ground of extremism and religious militancy. Facing the indigenous uprising and engaged in extreme repressive measures in Occupied Kashmir, the Modi government will do all it can to malign Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s enormous sacrifices and clear action against terrorism, the perception especially in the West that Pakistan only selectively targets terrorists and is diffident in taking decisive action against those accused of perpetrating terrorist violence in India and Afghanistan undermines Pakistan ability to effectively advocate Kashmir cause internationally.

The brief also referred to China’s opposition, at our behest, to India’s admission to NSG as one recent point of friction with the USA. Pointing to its centrality to Pakistan’s security, the brief emphasized the need to maintain credible nuclear deterrence. The world has acquiesced in Pakistan’s nuclear status. However, while resisting any discrimination we need to keep an understated public stance on nuclear matters.

India’s growing economic and military prowess is a reality. Pakistan should not be drawn into the incipient regional rivalries and reorient its foreign relations to focus on geo-economics rather than geo-politics. There are options to pursue. Of late, Pakistan has improved relations with Russia. It can deepen its already close ties with Iran and Turkey. It enjoys strong relations with China and the Gulf countries. It should also strive to maintain constructive relations with the USA. All these are important.

The complexity of the modern world suggests that there cannot be rigid divisions. Countries remain rivals on the one hand and cooperate in other areas in parallel. China-US and China-India relations are eminent examples. Pakistan must make full benefit from opportunities around us. To be able to do so, ‘the major challenge for Pakistan is internal’.