Donald Trump, the president of the United States has, in a tweet, which might be indicative of his administration’s policy towards Pakistan has stated that the country has betrayed the United States , despite aid monies and even supported militant outfits which attacked the United States troops in Afghanistan. Shorn of accretions, Trump is implying that Pakistan played a double game with the United States (a view popular in certain circles in Washington) and that the United States will review its policy and posture towards the country.
What follows is not a defense of Pakistan but a brief exegetic attempt to put into perspective relations between the United States and Pakistan. Essentially, barring the brief post Cold war interlude, where Pakistan entered into alliance structures devised by the United States, amid the bipolar confrontation with the former USSR, like CEATO and CENTO, the relational dynamic between Pakistan and the United States has been that of a transactional one. That is, the countries were neither allies, nor friends but for their mutual interests and benefits entered into a transactional relationship. This was perhaps best illustrated by the confrontation that panned out between the former USSR and the United States in Afghanistan. Going under the various and varied policy rubrics of “containment” and “roll back”, the United States sought Pakistan as a partner to defeat the Soviet Union, instrumentalizing the Afghan Mujahideen as partners and even “ friends” in the process. Pakistan then was a “valued” partner for the United States. Aid, weaponry, arms and ammunition was funneled by the United States’ CIA for the Afghans through Pakistan. When the war in Afghanistan “ended”, and when the former USSR dissolved in the mists of history, the United States “forgot” about Pakistan. A palpable drift in the two countries relations was broken after the September 11 attacks on the United States homeland. The United States again saw utility in Pakistan and sought the country as a “valued partner” in the so called “War on Terror”. Again, money and material was sent to Pakistan but as the drift in international and regional politics changed, the United States’ interest in Pakistan mellowed.
It may be pointed out here that, insofar as the Taliban was and is concerned, there was decisive support for the militant organization by Pakistan. The country, in its quest for security had formulated and implemented a doctrine known as the “strategic depth” which Pakistan viewed as a security hedge against India. Amidst the waxing and waning of the security condition(s) in Afghanistan, the various administrations of the United States, at times, sought cooperation with the Taliban and , at times, outright bellicosity and war( or counter insurgency). In the interregnum or even process, world politics was undergoing profound structural shifts and changes. The world was and is becoming multipolar, with the main axes of world politics and international relations revolving around the fulcrum of China and the United States. This has both regional and global consequences and implications.
Globally, world politics appears to be correspond to what may be called “loose” bipolarity , with China and the United States at the apex but regional orders appear to be multipolar. This fluid condition appears to be sought to be instrumentalized by both the countries with the United States appearing to draw India into its orbit to contain China and China , employing facets of power and influence to draw countries like Pakistan more closer to it.
In terms of Afghanistan, as the United States’ protégés , descended into an orgy of corruption and misrule , and the country’s attempts to prop up these in a clear cut attempt at indirect rule of Afghanistan began to exhibit diminishing returns, with the country falling gradually again into the orbit of the Taliban, the United States’ strategy towards the country began to fall in disarray. In this fluid context and milieu, Trump became present of the country. As Trump’s foreign policy was unclear and his visceral, instinctive approach to politics- domestic and foreign- suggested incoherence and as world politics was changing in fundamental ways, many countries sought to rejigg their foreign, security and defense policies. Russia began to assert itself more forcefully, both in its “near abroad” and in the Middle East, Turkey sought to reorient itself from the West, with ferment and an incoherent drift in the Middle East growing by the day, countries like Pakistan also appear(ed) to review their postures. Noteworthy here is the release and then entry of Hafiz Sayeed into the country’s politics , and his mainstreaming . This was not only a snub to the United States which had put a bounty on Sayeed’s head but also amounted to cocking a snook at the country. While many have interpreted Sayeed’s release and participation in elections in different ways, but it would appear, that it is reflective of the changing contours or even drift of world politics and international relations. And, it is Sayeed’s “ mainstreaming” that might, among other things, have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. In response, Trump could react the only way he possibly can- reflexively, viscerally and by lying.
The United States president by blaming Pakistan and putting the onus of the transactional relationship between the two countries is doing no one a favor. Pakistan, in more senses than one, is wedded to its strategic depth security doctrine; it will, in all likelihood not give it up even against the backdrop of threats and coercion- implied or real. More importantly, perhaps, the country appears to be now firmly ensconced in China’s orbit with its participation in the CPEC- a corollary of the One Belt, One Road( OBOR) initiative- a clear indication of this. But, more ominous are the implications on regional politics. A hostile posture towards Pakistan means , whether Trump means it or not, will be interpreted as a friendly one towards India. This has balance of power implications in South Asia. There will be more power political competition in the region, intense arms races and security dilemmas and the extant conflicts that define the region will get more intense. Trump, in essence, is the tail that is wagging the dog. But, alas, the consequences are too far too profound and disastrous for the South Asian region and perhaps even the world. The “ art” of the lie might have worked for Trump in the United States but for the world, the United States’ president and his congenital lying is a disaster in the making!
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]