Spearhead Analysis – 18.03.2014

DEMYSTIFYING POLICIESPakistan’s perceptions of US policy under President Obama are inevitably conditioned by being at the wrong end of many events. There was the military surge in Afghanistan with little to show as a result except for changes in command—often leading to controversies and uncertainty over the end result sought. There was the Drone attack policy of the CIA that turned into a blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. There was the attempt to covertly access Pakistan through Rambo Raymond Davis types. There was the stealth operation to kill Osama bin Laden that led to subversion of a Pakistan national who languishes in jail having completely undermined the vital polio vaccination campaign by using it as a cover. There was the Salala episode that killed 24 Pakistan soldiers and then there was the Drone attack on a tribal jirga in broad daylight immediately after the murders by Raymond Davis on a Pakistani street. Pakistan also faced intrusive language in the Kerry-Lugar Berman Bill and often heard accusations of duplicity and double dealing as well as exploitation of its problems with the TTP in FATA, in Baluchistan and Karachi.

Now in President Obama’s second term with a new team in place Pakistan cannot help but perceive a change. There is very little doubt that lessons have been learnt from the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the impact on the economy and the domestic blow back of stories from Guantanamo, water boarding, the atrocities in Abu Gharaib, and on the streets and within the houses in Iraq and Afghanistan. After encouraging his allies to lead the bombing charge in Libya there has been no urge to intervene in the turmoil following the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. The carnage in Syria continues without US intervening and the latest challenge has come from Russia when it intervened to take over Crimea that it has legitimized through a referendum. The US has all but checked out of Afghanistan and is prepared for both contingencies—with or without a Bilateral Security Agreement that Karzai refuses to sign. The US is moving towards better relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia is confronting new realities in its foreign policy. The thrust of US policy seems to be on Cyber warfare that has been used with considerable effect and with near complete deniability, economic sanctions effectively used against Iran and now being readied for Russia, technological superiority as demonstrated by surveillance and drone attacks and of course the use of special assets and forces in raid type operations. Perhaps there is a realization that US intervention at enormous human and material cost does not necessarily lead to a change for the better. The US is focusing on bigger issues that have to do with Russia and China and the pivot to Asia.

What is the challenge for Pakistan in this changing scenario?

  • Forge a strategic relationship with the US based on a convergence of interests in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Look beyond the present transactional relationship.
  • Forge good bilateral relations with all the neighbors especially Iran and Afghanistan.
  •  Stabilize internally as rapidly as possible both in economic and security terms. Especially important is the FATA area and urban militancy because of the implications of a post US Afghanistan.
  • State a clear polity and blue print for the future to remove ambiguities and uncertainties that are leading to futile discussions and strange rhetoric.
  • Foster trade, economic and energy dominated relationships with the world.
  • Maintain balance and avoid decisive foreign policy shifts for expediency.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)