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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

How the Afghan dilemma changed Pak-US relations

According to Abdul Samad Khan, Pakistan's role in Afghanistan has caused it a plethora of problems. It also changed its relationship with the US. Instead of appreciating Pakistan's efforts, the US blamed Pakistan for supporting the Taliban. Pakistan's stance of "Absolutely not" does have harsh consequences, however, the repercussions of the "Absolutely yes" are the severest.

The creation of Pakistan left the nascent state with a plethora of problems as usual as the newly born country faces. Pakistan determined its territorial security the topmost priority in its foreign policy. This was the reason why Pakistan moved towards alignment in its initial years. The nascent state found its economy struggling as it was quite a new economic set-up.

Both these reasons among others pulled Pakistan into the orbit of the West. Pakistan has remained in alliances for decades as there are a few years in its total seven- decade long history which is quoted as a non-aligned era, however, the nature of the needs of this newly born country has been so intense that it cannot remain neutral which demands a daunting homework.

While critically analyzing the pros and cons of the alliances Pakistan remained part of, one may easily find the demerits overwhelming the benefits of those alliances. As Islamabad has faced a plethora of serious repercussions of the aligned period, it finally continues to clarify its stance that it would never become part of any alliance at the cost of its socio-economic and political instability in addition to its security dilemma.

Read more: Islamabad Security Dialogue: Reaching out to the World

Islamabad wants to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan. It wants its efforts for Afghan reconciliation to be appreciated in lieu of being blamed for what is happening now in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and the Alliances: A critical Analysis

As has been mentioned earlier, Pakistan adopted the protection of its territorial security, national integrity, and sovereignty threatened by its eastern neighbor, India, and the booming of its newly-born economy soon after its establishment. Pakistan remained part of alliances like SEATO and CENTO, in its early years with a purpose to achieve its prioritized objectives.

Later on, Pakistan showed a bend towards the communist bloc in the 70s; but soon retreated to the west following the invasion of Afghanistan by the former USSR in 1979. The 9/11 episode resurfaced the need of Pakistan as an ally to the US in its War on Terror and Islamabad showed a nod and thus it remained a part of the said global move against terrorism.

When considering joining an alliance, a country must weigh the benefits and drawbacks and keep the regional and global geopolitical scenario in mind. Pakistan joined the capitalist bloc with a purpose to ensure security to its territory, sovereignty, and national integrity during its early years; but it totally failed in achieving the designed purpose notwithstanding the fact that it needed it badly especially when it was at war with its eastern neighbor in 1965 and 1971 – wherein the former USSR completely backed India militarily and diplomatically.

Read more: Will India, Russia and Bangladesh’s new agreement on civil nuclear cooperation isolate Pakistan?

Pakistan understood the costly nature of the alliance for a while and showed a tilt towards the communist bloc soon after the debacle of East Pakistan: it started diplomatic relations with Russia and strengthened its intimacy with China as well.

How it all started

The Soviets came and invaded Afghanistan in 1979, which resurfaced the need of Islamabad-being a next-door neighbor to Afghanistan and its cultural and religious connection with it for Washington.

The ideological clash with communism and the mounting need for economic aid pushed Pakistan into the orbit of the capitalist bloc once again. Pakistan contributed well to the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan; but soon after that America repeated the need-based relationships with Islamabad and pulled itself out of it thereby leaving a disturbed Afghanistan behind which hosted a destructive civil war followed by the establishment of the Taliban regime in Kabul.

It was a devastating episode as it disturbed the socio-economic, political, and security fabric of Pakistan by virtue of the penetration of Kalashnikov culture, opium smuggling, and ruinous sectarianism.

Read more: Afghanistan: 40 years of conflict

Islamabad was once again asked to stand by the US and its allies in their global War on Terror. It was left with no option but simply to say yes or no to the offer. Pakistan joined the War on Terror particularly on Afghan theatre compelled by a plethora of reasons.

It needed to convert its diplomatic isolation into bilateral and multilateral engagement and avail the opportunity to pose its soft image, boost up its struggling economy avoid the possibility of being rebuked for not supporting the effort against terrorism which might dumb its own cry for the settlement of Kashmir issue and the curtailment of the gross human rights violation in Kashmir at the hands of Indian troops.

But, the next two decades pushed Islamabad into troubled water as the alliance caused more than $100bn damage to Pakistan’s economy and left more than 70000 people dead in Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan suffered from a long-standing socio-economic, political, and security instability. Pakistan almost lost its international soft image.

The US kept blaming Islamabad for supporting the Taliban, even the Afghan government repeated the same mantra instead of appreciating the efforts Pakistan and has been playing for Afghan reconciliation for years since 9/11 and demanded to, “Do more”, for its mission in Afghanistan.

Read more: From “Do More” to “Absolutely Not” – Maleeha Hashmey

Contrary to the harsh consequences Pakistan has undergone, it just saw a transitory improvement in its economic growth from 2002 to 2007. But it was mostly economic aid in lieu of the efforts to uplift the down-siding economy all and all gradually. It observed an amelioration in its diplomatic engagement as the ghost of isolation seemed to be disappearing by leaps and bounds.

Finally, the experience of going through a handful of harsh consequences and the blame game posed by the different aligned periods awakened the country’s top policy formulators from dormancy to devise a cost-effective policy and take decisions as per the evolution of the long history of alliances. Therefore, Islamabad wants to renew its ties with all including Washington on an equal basis.

The ground realities

Islamabad keeps unveiling itself as a peace partner as it wants to be mutually cooperated with for bringing peace in Afghanistan and the whole region. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address at the South and Central Asia Conference for Regional connectivity held at Tashkent a few days ago, made the stance of Islamabad much clear that it would be a partner to Peace in Afghanistan.

Pakistan wants its efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan to be recognized and not be blamed for the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan. It calls the regional and global powers to play a positive role in Afghan political settlement even it kept convincing the US to avoid a hasty withdrawal which might pave way for the reinstatement of the 90s civil war episode and ironically the ground realities today are unveiling the prediction coming true.

Regional cooperation is the need of the hour. Therefore, Islamabad must be joined for bringing peace to Afghanistan instead of being asked for entering a new alliance whose blow for the socio-economic, political, and security fabric, Islamabad would never tolerate.

Read more: US, Pakistan and Afghanistan: A Peace Deal that ALMOST happened

While Islamabad trying to clarify its stance regarding the US intentions of staying here in the region, especially its bases in Pakistan, that it would be a partner to peace, America would pressurize it in one way or the other soon after it completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Pakistan with its own series of problems

Though the stance of Imran Khan is really incredible while keeping the country’s sovereignty in view, Pakistan has to struggle with a handful of issues that needs strong diplomatic support especially that of the major powers. Pakistan might be pressurized over its FATF and Kashmir issues. Pakistan might be punished via delaying or laying the bailouts in abeyance or bailing out with harsh conditions by the IMF, World Bank, and other international organizations. It may further be asked to revamp the protection of its human rights regime.

Finally, though the above paragraph unveils the harsh consequences of the ‘absolutely not’, the repercussions of the ‘absolutely yes’ are the severest. Therefore, Pakistan should stand by its stance to be an all-time partner to peace in Afghanistan. Islamabad should keep convincing the US of its compulsions for not going into an alliance anymore at the cost of its own destruction.

Read more: US encourages Pakistan Afghanistan talks and reconciliation with Taliban looks on the cards

The USA and Afghanistan must appreciate the efforts Pakistan has done so far for bringing peace to Afghanistan. Islamabad should keep highlighting the importance of a peaceful Afghanistan which is in the best favor of all stakeholders and this is a point of convergence among China, Russia, the US, and Pakistan among others, therefore, they must launch a joint effort to resolve the issue peacefully.

The USA must try to understand the intention of Islamabad and move forward to cooperate with it for a peaceful Afghanistan which will remove the security concerns for both countries. Mutual cooperation and coordination among the regional and global powers may facilitate the political settlement in Afghanistan.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad and can be reached at abdulsamadkhanbannu22@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.