Pakistan’s Turn to the Dark Side

Source: ARY News

Source: ARY News

If the recent foreign policy developments for Pakistan did not have you worried, then it is time for serious reflection. Ever since President George W. Bush left office, you can feel a distance between Washington and Islamabad. The differences between the two countries were particularly seen at their worst when Pakistan decided to carry out nuclear tests in 1998 during the term of the Clinton administration.

While Pakistan and China have always had very strong ties since the 1970s, but nothing like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has ever been seen before. It promises great prosperity for the future, but skeptics see it as yet another neo-colonial scheme in the region which could bring more harm than good. Not to mention the control it could possibly offer to the Chinese authorities in Gwadar.

Of course, the irony is not lost on the Pakistani left progressives and former communists who have been struggling against the military establishment since the 1950s. They recall how Afghan Jihad was mobilized by Pakistani military and masterminded by American National Security experts, out of fears of Soviets reaching the shores of the Persian Gulf. They also recall the harsh bans they had to endure during the Cold War years.

But let’s face it. The CPEC is too grand to be said no to. The magnitude of the project is so grand that even India would have agreed to it, had it been a primary beneficiary. The fact that Pakistan is turning to partners other than the United States and Great Britain for its economic and trade development sounds perfectly fine. Though you can’t help but wonder if the economic development comes at the cost of military alliances and other illegible footnotes.

Especially since the killing of Osama Ben Laden at the hands of US Navy Seals in Abbottabad, a humiliating episode for the Pakistani state, Pakistan’s position in the Western alliance has never been more precarious. The difference of interest between Washington and Islamabad on military action against certain militant groups in Afghanistan and within Pakistan have even worsened the tensions in the Obama years.

With the gulf of military cooperation apparently widening with a more disinterested US administration, Pakistan is apparently seeking new avenues with more sinister powers. On the surface, it was a welcome development that President Zardari paid a rare visit to Moscow in 2011 and that for the very first time, the Russian military participated in joint military exercises with Pakistan on Pakistani soil. Such an occurrence would have been unimaginable in the 1980s.

There is only one problem. Vladimir Putin and his open intimidation of the Western world. Not only that, his close association with Iran and the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. At a time when Aleppo has become the greatest battlefield for the conscience of the world, it may not be the best time to favor Russia over the Western world. So let’s just hope the military exercise is just a harmless affair of two old rivals on the road to friendship.

Probably it has been a long while that Pakistani nationalist commentators have been dreaming of Pakistani statesmen standing up to the US authorities on an equal standing. Even though we have had a tradition of strong diplomatic figures from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Abdullah Hussain Haroon. So you could expect that Senator Mushahid Hussein Syed’s recent comment at a Washington think tank about the United States no longer being the superpower of the world would see much appreciation.

The only problem is that the statement of the Prime Minister’s envoy could be tantamount to an needless provocation. It could work all very well in terms of harnessing diplomatic leverage and probably it would be unwise not to make soft threats, but if behavior such as this is overdone, it could surely affect Pakistan’s future with the Western world.

Furthermore, it is important to choose your words. Not sure how calling the United States “a declining power” is so flattering, no matter what your objectives are. It has only been a slight sign of Pakistan drifting away from and slipping into the Chinese and Russian camp, other than the usual cockiness of Senator Mushahid Hussain, who is free to get carried away after retirement as much as he wants. It is just that the China-Russia camp does not offer the best of values in human civilization.

It is only a fair point to make that it takes two to tango. Perhaps the United States does not require the partnership of Pakistan as it used to during the twentieth century or perhaps it is sick and tired of nurturing the Pakistani military without the satisfactory fulfillment of its objectives. However, the United States still favors Pakistan enough with its more traditional and liberal politicians largely refraining from supporting a Liberty Caucus resolution in the Congress to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

Even though the situation is far from being apocalyptic, the direction Pakistan is heading is certainly not that bright. There is nothing wrong in stating that we are living in a multi-polar world today, neither is there any harm in pursuing trade and commerce ties with the likes of China and Russia. But it would be wise not to burn bridges with long-time allies, whose values and humanitarian record we need to identify with more than authoritarian powers.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s greatest strategic concern India has been significantly improving its diplomatic standing in the West, even reaching out to Israel, since the fall of the Soviet Union. At the same time, India has not been alienating rival China and old ally Russia in its pursuit toward a freer and more vibrant economy and strong defense. Pakistan surely needs to take its diplomatic lessons from its bitter rival, despite India’s petulant insistence to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. At least the missed diplomatic opportunity with Israel cannot be emphasized enough.

As citizens, we can only hope for Pakistan to pursue more liberal and democratic policies and to stand with global forces representing such values than otherwise.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Why the Enemies of Islamic State Outside America Should Root for a Republican President in 2016

Source: Daily The Nation

Source: Daily The Nation

Do you believe that the votes of American citizens matter in shaping the future of the world?

Do you also happen to believe that the United States has been following a disastrous foreign policy over the years, creating more chaos than good?

If yes, then chances are that you must blame the 2003 invasion of Iraq for destabilizing the Middle East.

I do too, and that is why I think people sharing these beliefs, and those who want to destroy the Islamic State should root for a Republican President in 2016.

We don’t just need a hawk in the White House, call the candidate a neo-conservative, if you like, but one who is interested in completely eliminating ISIL and one who believes in establishing a permanent ground force in Iraq. I very much wish Hillary Clinton would be that candidate, but the sort of focus and commitment that you can expect from candidates on the Republican side.

I also believe that it has been the foreign policy of President Obama which has led to the current chaos that Iraq and Syria are in. Ever since the rise of ISIL, we have seen President Obama rejecting and belittling the threat has only made matters worse, and only recently he has taken stricter military action.

President Obama relies mostly on air power and drone warfare for his war strategy. Just as his presidency was a reaction to the war overdose during the term of George W. Bush, he probably is allergic to the idea of deploying ground troops as an occupying force.

At this point in history, the world needs the moral leadership of the United States to get rid of this horrific state of affairs in the Middle East. A lot of US citizens assert why the United States should be a part of a regional sectarian conflict. They are right. The United States does not have to be the sole participant of dealing with ISIL, but it must lead the world to that goal. However, that requires a leader that could rally the world around the cause as George W. Bush did during his term.

The world is prepared to take on ISIL, even including Saudi Arabia and Iran, despite their clash of interest in terms of the balance of power in Iraq and Syria. The problem is that the lives of the people of the Middle East cannot be left at the mercy of terrible authoritarian regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, who both have a record of backing terrorist or militant groups for their own political advantage.

Now that Iraq and Syria have reached this state, long term NATO forces must occupy these states in order to ensure the stability required by the citizens migrating to other parts of the world. This is why Western forces have been stationed in high risk regions such as South Korea. The need for such forces is far greater in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan than anywhere else. Such relative stability has been brought in Afghanistan and Iraq was relatively stable as well when George W. Bush left office.

I only wish the Democratic Party had brought more ideas about fighting ISIL in this race. Both the candidates have expressed commitment to fight ISIL, but the issue is given very low priority in the Democratic forum of ideas and is barely even discussed. Sadly, Hillary Clinton’s election would simply mean the continuation of the foreign policy of President Obama for at least 4 more years. If Bernie Sanders win, who knows what the US foreign policy would be. The stakes are too high for any such choices.

Quite frankly, if it were not the issue of foreign policy and ISIL, I would hardly see any reason for someone outside the US to have their interests attached with a candidate. Particularly at a time when a more aggressive US intervention in the Middle East is the need of the hour and one that involves ground occupation. I am sure that the people and leaders of the rest of the world, including Europe and the Middle East, would be watching the 2016 race with similar concerns.

There used to be a time when the Democratic Presidents used to initiate military action abroad, from FDR and Harry Truman to JFK and LBJ. Not that I miss the Democrats being the internationalist hawks, which they still are, but the approach of the political parties have changed since then. Especially since the war overdose of Bush 43 Presidency and President Obama’s allergy to troops on the ground as a reaction.

While most people would like President Obama’s approach, the world cannot afford it. At least, the Middle East cannot afford it any longer. A President with more assertive military leadership and one who seriously believes in destroying ISIL is needed to bring the Middle East back to order.

I know how some people are worried about the immoral and dangerous prospects of a conservative Republican President, but the only immoral and dangerous force that I see in the world is the Islamic State. And the closer the next President is to George W. Bush in approach, the better are the odds of eliminating it.

Let’s get rid of the Islamic State first. Then we can return to our lovefest with the Democratic candidates.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.