President Trump is flexing muscles to tame Pakistan. Writings on the wall indicate that Pakistan will soon lose the major Non-Nato Ally status under the Trump administration. That coveted status was granted when Pakistan’s fondness for using terror as an instrument of state policy was winked at by the White House with its gaze firmly fixed at short term goals in the fight against global terror…writes Syed Shihabudeen
Currently Pakistan is on a high after the Chinese backing it received saving India-centric terrorist, Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) from the UN sanctions in the face of a determined campaign mounted by the US and other permanent members of the Security Council. This phase may not last long if President Trump heeds the advice tendered by a dozen US-based think tanks and universities that he must act tougher than his predecessors against Pakistan in order to fight terror.
The “Act Tough” prescription has been signed by Brookings Institute, Heritage Foundation, Georgetown University, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, National Defence University, and other Ivy League think tanks and universities. It is undoubtedly a direct indictment of Pakistan as a leading terror state, although immediately declaring Pakistan a state sponsoring terror may not serve US interests best. But Washington must keep that option open even after scrutinising intelligence reports.
To begin with, however, Pakistan may well be deprived of its “Major Non-Nato Ally” status. That coveted status was granted when Pakistan’s fondness for using terror as an instrument of state policy was winked at by the White House with its gaze firmly fixed at short term goals in the fight against global terror.
Past experience shows Pakistan will not change easily or quickly. Years of financial and military aid from the US has only made its military stronger encouraging elements that hope to wrest Kashmir from India ‘by force’, the document prepared by the think tanks says.
The Trump administration must do a ‘realistic appraisal of Pakistani policies, aspirations and world view’. The US must give up the chase of a ‘mirage’ of seeing a change in Pakistan by giving it generous financial aid and latest military equipment. ‘Inducements’ alone will not force any change in Pakistan.
The report, however, expects the US to lead efforts to encourage efforts of the civilian leadership of Pakistan for adopting ‘more moderate and tolerant’ policies. This observation appears to be at odds with the reality that the civilian leadership in Pakistan takes the cue from its uni-dimensional India-centric military.
Instances of military supremacy in Pakistan come to light almost on a daily basis, especially when it is something concerning India. Recently when the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed, known as the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was ordered to be detained by the civilian administration the military felt obliged to say that the action was taken in the ‘national interest’.
The military had to make that statement to assure the highly radicalised population of the country that the civilian government alone had not passed the detention order. It was an eyewash because the terror chief will never be tried for acts of terror he has masterminded in the past, including India’s 28/11 in which a number of US citizens were also killed.
Hafeez Saeed has been ‘detained’ and freed on two previous occasions, allegedly because the courts found no evidence against him. As in the past, Hafiz Saeed changed the name of his outfit post haste and has assured continuous flow of funds with the help of fictitious bank accounts and, of course, cash donations received from the jihad-loving Pakistanis.
What new ‘evidence’ Pakistan has gathered to get Saeed punished this time round? That too after the ‘mountain’ of evidence that India supplied to Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attacks has been junked. The fact remains, however, that much of the evidence against him lies in Pakistan which the country refuses to see.
So much so, his detention ‘order’ is designed to mislead Washington into believing that Pakistan is changing course on terror and, therefore, it should be spared any harsh treatment by the Trump Administration. The real yardstick for judging whether Pakistan is changing, is however the action that it takes against the vast network of terror outfits that attack targets in India and Afghanistan from Pakistan soil.
How the Trump administration acts on the reports by think tanks is to be seen. India must use every opportunity it gets of interacting with American officials to press home its point that Islamabad under Rawalpindi’s influence is not going to change its spots, neither now nor in the foreseeable future.
What might work is continued US pressure on Pakistan to give up its unremitted hostility towards India if it wants to enjoy the fruits of continued American aid worth billions of dollars. The pressure has to come in the form of sticks with only occasional carrots.
While Pakistan might give the impression that basking in the warmth of Chinese friendship it does not need US friendship, it knows that without continued American support and friendship the future of the land of the pure may be tough.
The Chinese support to Pakistan’s terror policies is not a blank cheque. Beijing knows that the ‘snakes’ that Pakistan has kept in its backyard can bite China too. China dubs the Uyghur Muslim population of its western (Muslim majority) Xinjiang province as terrorists. The adjoining territory in Pakistan occupied Kashmir gives shelter to many of these ‘terrorists’ from Xinjiang.
Pakistan has to constantly do a balancing act to please both the Chinese and the Muslim population in China who remain under an oppressive regime and the Islamists within its territory. Significantly Pakistan remains silent on the oppression of Muslims in China even as the local population in the PoK and the Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan does not accept Pakistan’s tacit acceptance of Chinese oppression. China will, of course, not take kindly to anything that Pakistan does or its so-called non-state actors do to help its Uyghur Muslims.
Well, China has been nursing doubts about the safety of its workers who work on various projects in Pakistan, particularly the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor, (CPEC). It has an opportunity to force Pakistan to tamper its excessive reliance on its terror networks. This is a misplaced optimism going by China’s track record on Láffaire Masood Azhar.