Foreign Secretary Tahmina Janjua’s call for structural dialogue between Pakistan and the US to continue efforts against terrorism comes in the backdrop of two strategic developments in Asia. There is growing understanding between US, Afghan government and major stake holders in West Asia that peace in Afghanistan should be main area of focus in 2018. In North East Asia, the Korean Peninsula crisis is also witnessing a new wind of change after a prolonged period of hostility.

North Korean President Kim Jong Un has shown his willingness to come back to negotiating table and directly meet Donald Trump. As reported by BBC on 10 March, the ‘miracle meeting’ may take place very soon. It was disclosed that North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump are to meet in person as early as May, it has been announced, an extraordinary overture after months of mutual hostility. News of the meeting was delivered by South Korean officials after talks with Mr Trump at the White House. They passed a verbal message from Mr Kim, saying the North Korean leader was “committed to denuclearization”. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the news “came like a miracle”.

The report further projected that “If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest,” .

Is 2018 going to become the harbinger of peace in Asia? This is a million dollar question.

The drivers blowing these winds of peace are mentioned below:

A war weary America headed by a beleaguered President trying to fight the domestic woes and scandals is indirectly contributing to the peace efforts in West Asia and Korean Peninsula.

Emerging powers in Eurasia, who have a major stake in Afghan peace and stability; look at the opportunity to drive Chinese global connectivity agenda of Belt and Road initative, duly supported by the Russian Federation.

Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors like Pakistan, Iran and Central Asian states feel that Afghan stalemate and latest offer by Dr Ashraf Ghani for political dialogue with fighting factions and an attempt to mainstream extremist elements can create a win win situation for the entire region.

Spoilers like India and some hostile agencies operating with Indian backing want to prolong the Afghan conflict as the bleeding heart of Asia gives them an opportunity to keep the Pak afghan border on fire and undermine Pakistan’s security through proxy war.

The Korean peninsula has similar undercurrents, the drivers of peace include:

Korean people on both sides of the 38th parallel and the DMZ very strongly feel that the peninsula cannot afford a war with nuclear overhang. No wonder the Winter Olympics at PyeongChang (South Korea), paved way for thawing of relationship between political leadership of both states.

China and Russian Federation have also encouraged the peace process in Korean Peninsula, and recent surge for peace have their sold backing.

Japanese leadership has also agreed that a peaceful settlement of Korean Crises could usher in a new era of development and economic progress in the region.

US remains divided on the issue, as hawks in Capitol Hill and the White House would like to push North Korea through coercive tactics and economic strangulation. The doves in American establishment in coordination with South Korean emissaries have recommended that Trump should directly engage Kim Jong Un to put the peace process in full gear; especially if the North Korean leadership can be motivated for denuclearization through diplomacy.

It is interesting to recall Trump’s remarks in Jan 2018 as reported by Politico Magazine, during an interview with the Journal at White House he said, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un, I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.” Trump’s relationship with Kim in his first year has been marked by antagonistic exchanges and threats, with the U.S. president deriding the North Korean leader with the nickname “Lil’ Rocket Man.”

Coming back to US Pak relations, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tamina Janjua’s visit to Washington has focused on improving counter-terrorism cooperation and on US President Donald Trump’s strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan. She said maintaining relations with Pakistan is as important for the US as are Islamabad’s linkages with its Western ally.

As reported by Pakistani press, Tehmina Janjua highlighted Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism and extremism, she stressed on regional cooperation and integration as a bulwark against terrorist elements. She also mentioned that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is part of the grand Belt and Road Initiative which aims at knitting the region in a cohesive unit in order to do away with mutual differences.

Pakistan’s sentiments were reciprocated by Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, who said, “I think we’re in the beginning of a process with the Pakistani government. We have a series of high-level exchanges planned. Foreign Secretary Janjua is here in Washington for important meetings. There will be a very intensive dialogue through both our military and civilian channels to discuss how we can work together.” “We’re certainly not walking away from Pakistan,” she stressed.

The question raised in early part of the paper, on whether 2018 will become a year of peace in Asia, can be answered by analyzing the strategic drivers of peace as mentioned above. The willingness and motivation for peace is discernible in West Asia as well as North East Asia. US holds the key to conflict resolution in both regions as her physical military presence on ground and politico economic clout to affect strategic decision making by major stake holders is till potent and relevant.

In case president Trump can overcome domestic bureaucratic pressures and do away with swaggering and bravado of cow-boyish rhetoric, his name may go down in history of being a statesman, who blew the winds of peace.

 

The writers are freelance journalists.