A few days ago, US National Security Adviser John Bolton informed that the decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan was not taken lightly. The Trump administration was fully aware of the consequences of taking such an action against a nuclear weapons state despite danger of it falling into the hands of terrorists. He reiterated that war against terrorism is a matter of extraordinary importance to America; implying that the risk of destabilising Pakistan to the extent of terrorist takeover was worth taking; if it came to that. This is called ‘if push comes to shove diplomacy’.

During his media talk, it appeared that US delegation to Pakistan led by Secretary of State Pompeo was disappointed at being denied a tête-à-tête with the prime minister of Pakistan. Maybe, it was the same message it wanted to convey to a prime minister new to the job of international politics. 

Earlier, the temporary thaw over transcript diplomacy was violated by USA in its pit stop to India through a joint statement calling upon Pakistan to ensure its territory wasn't used to launch terror attacks on other countries. The reaction of Pakistan’s foreign office to this insult though belated was critical. On Thursday, US State Department s spokesperson Heather Nauert sugar coated the exiting tensions and that “the US is looking forward to forging a relationship with that new government, recognizing that there are, of course, some tensions and some areas where we – or the government can work harder”.

So why is USA resorting to such harsh and extreme statements. The issue is neither terrorism nor the spectre of Pakistan falling into the wrong hands. If in the past, Salala, coercive diplomacy, operations other than war and seizure of coalition support funds could not convince Pakistan, what else could?

In contrast, US intervention and occupation in Afghanistan with the latest military technologies, daisy cutters and MOAB has reached a dead end. Afghan resistance commonly known as Afghan Taliban is alive and kicking. Induction of Daesh and ISIS is counterproductive. Due to geopolitics, it has found support from unlikely quarters like Russia and Iran. The quadrilateral dialogue, once a US initiative is now dead. India understands its military intervention cannot turn US adversities into victory. As a last resort, USA wants Pakistan to influence Afghan Taliban knowing well that the influence has waned and resistance fractured. To salvage some pride they are pressuring Pakistan to hand over the scalp of Haqqani Group that is no more in Pakistan. At the same time USA tries to appease India over non-existent threats.

For policy planners on Capitol Hill, the irking concern is that all plans have been foiled. Hardliners think that desperate situations need desperate measures. Enchasing the persona of an impulsive President and Pakistan’s vulnerable economic situation, USA is ready to put its seven decades relationship with Pakistan to test and make Pakistan blink. Unlike the past, it is most likely that Pakistan will remain firm in its stance while keeping the doors of engagement open.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his team have erred in the strategic appraisal. The demarche is old wine in new wineskins. USA sees its seven decade containment ring around Eurasia and China falling apart. Rather than allow international trade through Pakistan from China, Central Asia and Russia flourish to Europe and Africa, it wants to perpetuate its presence in Afghanistan whilst keeping Pakistan unstable to thwart the economic highways. USA fears that its containment inspired geostrategy is coming to an end and the old Baghdad Pact Rimland is about to reverse its direction. Neither Afghan Taliban nor Pakistan supporting proxies to destabilise India is the ‘raison d'être’.

The instability curves and algorithms made by US think tanks stand falsified. In the past fifteen years, Pakistan has passed beyond the point of falling into the hands of terrorists. Democracy has strengthened. Three democratically elected governments have completed their five years tenures and the fourth has just taken over. The war against terrorism is largely concluded. Semi-autonomous areas of FATA have been merged and process of mainstreaming begun. Law enforcement agencies supported by the people of Pakistan have ensured at cost of very high casualties in dead and wounded that Pakistan’s external, internal and ideological defences are buttressed. After sustained violence a rebuilding process has begun.

Pliant regimes exasperated Pakistan’s governance crises in the past decade. 18th Amendment stalled economic progress. Corruption and mismanagement was phenomenal. It needed an economic daemon to plunge Pakistan into the sinkhole. The present economic crises are a deliberate manipulation more so in the past five years so as to tie Pakistan’s policy making to external threads. Rulers themselves created the present current account deficit, balance of payments and trade deficit at a time when Pakistan squandered the opportunity of low oil prices and yet borrowed heavily from IMF. Despite dangerous hypothetical scenarios that bad governance could be a precursor to political turmoil and subsequent takeover by terrorists, Pakistan survived the trap forecast by the West to elect democracy that promises change.  No sane person or statesman sees terrorists taking over Pakistan as John Bolton suggests.

The truth is as bright as daylight. Planners who wanted to de-stripe Pakistan are aghast their plans ended in nothing, rather misfired. Pakistan has restored societal balance (the precursor to all implosions), strengthened democracy (a participatory building block) and embarked on a national rebuilding programme based on a ‘bottoms up’ philosophy. China’s OBOR projects under CPEC provide much needed infusion of technology and money West is reluctant to provide. Rebuilding makes socio-economic progress sustainable by providing jobs, opportunities and human resource development to the poorest and largest segments of society. As plans unfold and materialise, Pakistan with immense resources will emerge as one of the leading economies of the world. At that stage everything about OBOR, Shanghai Group, BRICS, ECO and SAARC would fall into place. That would be the end of US dominated Geostrategy; through economic engagement and not military power.

But beware! A new gossip front against China and CPEC has already opened. Western financial institutions are on a propaganda spree that Pakistan is about to be colonised by China. Suddenly the petro-dollar economy has become cognisant of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Mixed with the massive corruption and kickbacks of the previous regime, the entire structure of CPEC will be discredited.

For Pakistan it’s a new leaf and a new page. The God sent opportunity must not be wasted. The impetus of rebuilding and rule of law must grow. The fleeting opportunity of national character and morale must be infused into every sinew of the nation.

Pakistanis must feel relieved that all offensives since Pakistan went nuclear in 1998 have been foiled. Pakistan rather than become a weak, pliable and discredited country has emerged strong in all dimensions of strategy. Democracy has strengthened, healing process of societal scars begun, rebuilding in process, and defensive deterrence much stronger. The future is Economic Diplomacy.


The writer is a political economist and a television anchor person