The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has made an epic statement. Pakistan wants to be a partner in peace and not conflict. He offered India two steps forward for one. He also reached out to the world. 

The intent was demonstrated by offering free access to Sikh pilgrims from India to Kartarpur. In reaction, Navjot Singh Sidhu was crucified many times by Indian media, government officials and extremists. 

India’s historical predispositions and hatred took the better of their perceptions. Like an olive branch pricked by a raven, India took this as an insult at a time when Pakistanis on chat boards and tea shops were busy discussing opening multiple corridors of religious sites in Pakistan to Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Indian intelligence services forever busy in brewing trouble inside Pakistan, failed to report the credibility of the pulse; or the government chose to ignore it in support of their ‘Get Pakistan’ policy. To add insult to injury, the killing of a BSF soldier by his own colleagues was blamed on Pakistan. Pakistani soldiers actually helped BSF find and recover his body. Indian media and its international partners went into an anti-Pakistan vitriolic. Indian army chief made himself a laughing stock. Surgical strikes became the slang. The LOC is tense. Pakistan ready with ‘steeds of war’ waits what India does next. 

Indian antics are not new. In the past too, such rage based on disinformation has outpoured many times. BSF murders and suicides are common reflecting leadership, command, control and morale. Not long ago, India claimed destroying a Pakistani boat laden with LeT men who later turned out to be innocent Indian fishermen sent to death. The BSF murder gave India a chance to slip out of a sideline meeting with Pakistan in United Nations bringing diplomacy back to square one. Right now India does not wish to talk peace. It is thinking in terms of prevailing and countervailing trajectories. 

In another peace initiative, Pakistan with China’s consent has offered CPEC and beyond for mutual development and economic benefits. This means building complementary alliances that make conflict irrelevant. The advantages will far outweigh the irritants while conflict resolution will be facilitated. In a multi layered cake concept, irritants are overridden by mutually beneficial engagements to achieve a global equilibrium. This is what Prime Minister Imran Khan means by announcing ‘Partners in Peace’.

On his visit to Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister of Pakistan offered the Kingdom to become part of the CPEC initiative. This Saudi involvement is an affirmation of the long held concept of an ‘Oil City’ in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has already signed three grant agreements with Pakistan to finance road infrastructure and energy projects. A high-level Saudi delegation is expected in Pakistan on Sunday for signing them on Reko Diq gold, copper mines and Gwadar oil refinery. In fruition, the initiative would bring in foreign investments and revive local economies. 

At the same time, Pakistan is also engaging Russia for a gas pipeline. This means that in the future Pakistan would become the hub of oil and gas pipelines from Qatar and Iran. Syria, after peace prevails will follow. An undersea tunnel from Jiwani Pakistan to Oman or Iran to UAE could revolutionise the concept of One Belt One Road projects. The same belt could connect Europe with multiple corridors through Iran and Turkey. 

But success of this vision will depend on international politics related to Saudi relations with USA and Iran. Time will tell how effectively KSA will be able to withstand US pressures. At the same time, Pakistan must keep the concept of a multi layered cake alive and stay out of regional and global conflicts. 

For far too long USA has seen Pakistan through the Afghan periscope. American historical memory is weak and vision too short. By becoming an ally, India is forcing USA to look at Pakistan through Kashmir, a disputed territory under UN resolutions supported by USA. However, this alliance and instability in Afghanistan provide both countries a pretext to pressurise Pakistan and forestall cooperation with China.  Hence there could be ‘many a slip between cup and the lip’.

Even at the height of Cold War Pakistan had kept alive the dream of Silk Roads. 1,300 Km Karakorum Highway linking China with Pakistan started in 1959. It is still called the 8th wonder of the world. In 2006, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Pakistan and China to rebuild and upgrade it to a width of 10 to 30 meters.  Now the whole concept is rebranded as CPEC.

813 km long RCD Highway (Pakistan, Iran and Turkey) connects Karachi with Afghanistan, Iran and subsequently Turkey. The Quetta Taftan line including railways connects via Naukundi to Iran. The highway also has a recent connection to Gwadar. The project needs to be modernized with Turkish and Iranian cooperation. In addition two more highways with railway lines from Turbat and Gwadar can connect to Iran. 

Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) 1995 between China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for facilitating transit traffic and trade must also come to live. Recently Tajikistan has also expressed the desire to join it. Within Central Asia, this project is in an advanced stage and will be linked with CPEC. Multiple routes through China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran will connect to Europe and Africa. 

In 1995, the reconnaissance for this project was completed on the prospective road by Late Major General Naseer Ullah Babar the Interior Minister of Pakistan and National Highway Authority. The road has multiple connections through Afghanistan and Karakorum Highway.  

This plan offering multiple options was adjunct to a political settlement between warring factions in Afghanistan negotiated by Pakistan. Though all Afghan factions had signed the drafts, Benazir Bhutto’s government was suddenly dismissed by President Laghari. Osama Bin Laden was launched, Ahmad Shah Masood assassinated and Afghanistan destabilised. The Americans did not approve of the two initiatives. Benazir Bhutto and General Babar during private conversations called it the first CIA coup in Pakistan.  Her assassination is still a mystery.

If past is precedent, Pakistan must be prepared for the backlash that could come from multiple directions in diverse forms. Pakistan will be attacked and demonised relentlessly. The political parties deposed by the people and desi liberals will not be far behind. 

But these are all well identified irritants. 

The cruelest cuts will come from within. Many economic hitmen of yore have resurfaced in new attire. These and the proverbial albatrosses have a bag full of tricks. They will inundate the prime minister with double edged policies. There will be many reviews. But finally the right equilibrium and combination will be found. 

If the nation was patient with crooks and thieves for a decade, they must show patience to new government for a year. The template for an egalitarian, developed and proud Pakistan has been set. Peace as a conflict resolution instrument must get a chance. 

 

The writer is a political economist and a television anchor person

samson.sharaf@gmail.com