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Imran Khan has conceded to US realignment in South Asia

According to Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, a professor at Quaid-i-Azam University, the recent events in the world have led to the transformation in global geopolitics and changes in the South Asian strategic environment which has caused increased mistrust between the US and Pakistan. They have clearly sided with India and completely sidelined Pakistan.

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The transformation in global geopolitics and recent developments in the South Asian strategic environment has further increased mistrust between Islamabad and Washington. Pakistan’s National Security Adviser and Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence seemed unsuccessful in mitigating the mistrust between Islamabad and Washington during recent visits to the United States.

The Biden administration’s arrogant approach toward Pakistan and decisive developments in the country’s neighborhood compelled Prime Minister Imran Khan to concede and publicize the US realignment in South Asia. On August 11, 2021, he said, “I think the Americans have decided that India is a strategic partner. Maybe that’s why Pakistan is being treated differently. Pakistan is just considered to be useful only in the context of settling this mess.”

A way forward

Admittedly, the Indo-US strategic partnership is a reality, first, the Pakistani ruling elite needs to review the last three decades’ developments. Secondly, it needs to review current trends in the geostrategic environment, and finally, the country’s diplomatic limits must be sagaciously addressed while dealing with the US in the future.

Read more: Pakistanis must not draw wrong conclusions from Taliban victory– Lt. Gen. Tariq Khan

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States’ process of strategic realignment has been underway. As a result, the Pakistani ruling elite struggled to sustain a close relationship with the sole superpower. However, trends in global geopolitics were not conducive for enduring strategic alliance between Pakistan and the US.

The entry into force of the 1985 Pressler Amendment in 1990, the inking of the Malabar Naval Exercise between the US and India in 1992, and Huntington’s clash of civilization thesis (1993) were unblemished indicators of Pakistan’s shrinking relevance in the Americans’ foreign and strategic policy in the post-cold war strategic environment.

The situation however, was altered at the dawn of the 21st century. Al-Qaeda’s strikes in Washington and New York flashed Pakistan’s utility in the Americans’ war on terrorism. The 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan necessitated the Bush administration to grant Pakistan a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status in March 2004. The MNNA status secured certain benefits in the areas of defense, trade and security cooperation for Pakistan. However, despite immense efforts, Islamabad failed to transform MNNA status into a trustworthy strategic partner of Washington. Even with over 80,000 Pakistani casualties and $150 billion of economic losses in the ‘war on terror’ the country has not won the Americans’ trust.

Read more: Panic in Kabul as Taliban advance continues

India as US major defense partner

Pakistan’s relevance in Washington’s strategic calculations has been dwarfed with the steady rise of China and Americans’ cementing a strategic partnership with India to contain China in the Asia-Pacific. In addition, India was designated as a ‘Major Defense Partner’ in June 2016, which elevated its strategic partnership to a level commensurate with the closest allies and partners of the US.

Secretary Pompeo’s statement on India’s surgical strike at Balakot on February 26, 2019 demonstrated that the Trump administration endorsed India’s irresponsible military adventure against Pakistan. However, instead of reacting, the Pakistani leadership continued its struggle to create a space for its appropriateness in America’s South Asia policy.

The Pakistani leadership expressed its earnest desire to establish broad-based relations with the US without compromising its China and India policies. It has manifested to not compromise on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI is viewed in Washington as a challenger to America’s primacy in global politics.

Read more: Indo-China tensions: US interests & regional implications

The Taliban’s incredible advances and collapse of the US imposed two decade old political system in Afghanistan has increased irritations between Islamabad and Washington. The Americans are frustrated over the ruin of $2 trillion, and nearly 2,500 US lives in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, instead of honorably admitting their failures, the Americans have been scapegoating Pakistan. They are pressurizing Pakistan to alter their defeat into victory, while Islamabad is committed to its Afghanistan policy.

Who is behind the Dasu attack? 

On August 12, Foreign Minister Qureshi categorically said that thorough investigations had revealed that Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies were responsible for the masterminding and execution of the Dasu terror attack on July 14. Therefore, many Pakistanis viewed the Afghan Taliban as a better option than the Ghani government and underplayed the nexus between the Afghan Taliban and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which is frequently conducting terror attacks in the country.

Currently, American policymakers look at Pakistan through the narrow prism of Afghanistan. Besides, they have expressed their desire for Pakistan to accept India as a Great Power in the region and revamp its foreign policy to facilitate Americans’ struggle to contain China. However, these ideas are incompatible with Pakistan’s national interest in prevalent global and regional geopolitics. Besides, the fast-shrinking role of India in Afghanistan is viewed as a constructive development in Islamabad, but is very disquieting in Washington.

Read more: Pakistan’s foreign policy front in the next decade – Dr. Zafar Jaspal

Thus, the mismatch in regional strategic outlooks justifies US realignment in South Asia and necessitates Pakistan to reconcile with this geopolitical reality instead of publicizing victimhood or the decades’ old ally narrative to criticize and make futile attempts to alter the Indo-US strategic partnership.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Author of India’s Surgical Strike Stratagem: Brinksmanship and Response, (2019). He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This piece was first published in Arab News Pakistan. It has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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