In the new great game

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By M Saeed Khalid

The outgoing Obama administration has hurried yet again to tighten its embrace around India. An earlier attempt to push India’s membership of the nuclear suppliers’ cartel by arm-twisting several of its members backfired. Undeterred, Washington strikes back by designating Delhi as its major defence partner.

The US move is aimed at institutionalising greater partnership in defence trade and technology sharing. The US is motivated by important strategic and commercial interests to forge greater defence ties with India. The net result could, however, be that India’s gradual loosening of the bear hug with Moscow, its major defence supplier for decades, would be substituted by another dependant relationship with the US.

The growing US-India strategic partnership has alerted China and Russia as they look for newer avenues to safeguard their interests. While China has intensified cooperation with Pakistan and Central Asia, Russia too has been stepping up ties with Pakistan. Moscow is also cultivating links with the Afghan Taliban, conceding them the status of stakeholders in a war-torn country. That adds to Washington’s nervousness, bringing critical comments about the influence of Pakistan, Russia and Iran over the Afghan Taliban.

These are the same Taliban that the US has failed to defeat in its longest war. When the greatest power failed to achieve its objectives, it reached out for talks with the Taliban, only to show frustration by killing their chief. Perhaps the US just needs to refresh its memory and recall that the Afghan Taliban ruled Afghanistan till the US-led invasion post 9/11. Both Washington and Kabul should drop the terms ‘insurgents’ and ‘insurgency’ if they are serious about negotiating peace with them.

To Pakistan’s east, India faces a major crisis in Indian-occupied Kashmir but has opted for the easy way to deceive Indian and international opinion by blaming the situation on ‘terrorists’. There is no let up in the blame game against Pakistan over alleged support for the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. The most virulent of the three tenors of anti-Pakistan chorus is Narendra Modi who openly declared his evil intention of isolating Pakistan in the comity of nations for supporting terror attacks against India. This is the same man who has been numb to the BJP hardliners’ campaign to intimidate Indian Muslims in order to capitulate to Hindutva.

Modi has publicly taken credit for breaking up Pakistan in 1971.He will not admit that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Modi will also never recognise his role in masterminding the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Now he spits venom against Pakistan, trying to divert attention from the popular uprising in the valley of Kashmir.

The second tenor of the blame orchestra is the Afghan president who cannot get over Pakistan’s inability to ‘abandon’ the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqanis. This is simply posturing as Dr Ghani should know that rooting out the two organisations is easier said than done in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Both are active players in the nearly four-decade-old conflict in Afghanistan. Their operational sanctuaries are in Afghanistan just like those of the TTP following Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas.

Then there is Washington, where government spokespersons and some anti-Pakistan members of Congress miss no opportunity to shift the blame of US’s failure in their longest war on to Pakistan. Most amusing is their claim that Pakistan has been playing a double game. Just to refresh their memory, when the CIA, the ISI and the Saudi intelligence were coordinating anti-communist jihad in Pakistan, General Zia repeatedly asserted that Pakistan would not be a conduit for the war in Afghanistan. Think of good and bad double games!

Indeed, Pakistan has been forced to play the double game but no more than the US, which invades countries in defence of democracy and human rights. This is the same US that has been labelled ‘the greatest terrorist state’ by Noam Chomsky. As people have learned with experience, the US follows a brazen policy of global domination just like the earlier colonial empires. And, just like them, it packages its global agenda in the wrapping of democracy – replacing ‘the white man’s burden’ of the colonial era.

How should Pakistan respond to this barrage of accusations? Some think that if Pakistan had a strong foreign minister, s/he could confront these states with confidence and expose their double games. It is true that Khurshid Kasuri and Shah Mehmood Qureshi demonstrated great confidence in the manner in which they took on foreign interlocutors. But that is not Mian Sahib’s style, who prefers the soft word.

Even when Nawaz Sharif spoke of overthrowing the PPP government, he still sounded civil. He uses hard language about India with a soft tone. But it is not advisable to stay so civil when your country’s name is sullied in the open.

The prime minister should make it clear to the detractors that Pakistan’s role in ‘sponsoring’ terrorism is no more than that of India and Afghanistan who are carrying out a proxy war in Pakistan. While the Indians have yet to prove Pakistan’s involvement, their prime minister has openly threatened Pakistan of his support for separatism in Balochistan.

It is ridiculous for Modi to expect help from Pakistan after creating a huge mess in Occupied Kashmir. He has provoked a new generation of Kashmiri Muslims to carry on the freedom struggle. If India wants assistance from Pakistan to improve the situation in the valley, it must stop defaming Pakistan and retract its silly calls for isolating us.

 ( Email: saeed.saeedk@gmail.com )