Pakistan’s foreign policy orientation — VI

Both the words, ‘parity’ and ‘South Asia’, have kept Pakistan a prisoner of its own type. Like many other divisions, South Asia is an imaginary line outlining a region for political understanding

The bee-in-the-bonnet tyranny spares none. One word Pakistan has always cherished is ‘parity’ or equality used in the context of parity with India. While the partition bequeathed this word to Pakistan, the Cold War (1947-1991) congealed it. Like Indian Muslims demanding parity with Hindu majority in politics, Pakistan claimed and demanded parity with India in South Asia.

Though not officially declared, Pakistan’s quest for attaining parity with India was a motive convincing it to join anti-communist military alliances such as SEATO and CENTO in September 1954 and September 1955. By rubbing shoulders with the victors of the Second World War such as the US and UK, Pakistan’s journey on the path of parity with India began. Though Pakistan was one of the organisers of the Bandung Conference held in April 1955 to think of being non-aligned, Pakistan did not become the member of the Non-Aligned Movement, when its idea was aired in July 1956 as the Initiative of Five (Yugoslavia, India, Egypt, Ghana and Indonesia). Pakistan was not ready to abandon the military alliances and sit down with India as a lesser partner, an expression of inequality. The country revolted against the dictates of disparity.

Even if not Pakistan’s preoccupation with parity, Pakistan’s animosity with India was known to both the US and UK, the major proponents of anti-communist military alliances, but they kept on arming Pakistan. This was how Pakistan offered itself as a willing proxy ready to hold a dispensable status to meet the dream of parity. However, soon the parity project experienced the first shock. By suspending military assistance, the US imposed an arms embargo on Pakistan in September, 1965 when Pakistan used weapon against India — the weapons which had been procured through the membership of anti-communist military alliances to be used necessarily against the communist threat. Pakistan justified the infraction by saying India attacked Pakistan. Nevertheless, the anti-communist posture of Pakistan kept fulfilling its desire for hoisting the flag of parity with India.

That Pakistan is less an ally and more a liability became known to the US when, after sabotaging the message of the Lahore Summit held in February 1999, Pakistan launched the Kargil war, which was replete with an odious potential for unleashing a nuclear conflict. In the post-cold war era, the Kargil initiative was Pakistan’s first ingenuity to change the Line of Control delineating the Kashmir border. However, the war exposed a perilous trend in Pakistan: for launching a war against India, the elected government could be left in the dark. The trend terrified the world with a possibility of a nuclear holocaust, for the rescue and rehabilitation of the victims of which the world had to arrange funds and offer services, much less bearing the effects of a nuclear cloud.

Instead of making Kashmir a ‘nuclear flashpoint’, the Kargil war discredited Pakistan’s elected government both regionally and internationally, whether or not domestically. The US rejected the idea that the resolution of the Kashmir issue needed a conflict offering all openings to a nuclear holocaust. The Kargil initiative became the bane of Pakistan offering the world, including the US, an opportunity to rethink of Pakistan and its fixation with parity. The US started distancing itself from being a friend or ally of Pakistan. Instead of attaining parity with India, Pakistan eventually lost the trust of the US. If there had been no 9/11, Pakistan could have felt the strangeness of the US deeply. Nevertheless, Pakistan has not yet recovered from the curse of the Kargil war, which brutally damaged Pakistan’s claim of parity with India. The US-India nuclear energy deal of October 2008 offered a nuclear (energy) edge to India, thereby disparaging indirectly Pakistan’s claim of having attained a sort of nuclear parity with India.

That Pakistan is less an ally and more a liability became known to the US when, after sabotaging the message of the Lahore Summit held in February 1999, Pakistan launched the Kargil war, which was replete with an odious potential for unleashing a nuclear conflict

Both the words, ‘parity’ and ‘South Asia’, have kept Pakistan a prisoner of its own type. Like many other divisions, South Asia is an imaginary line outlining a region for political understanding. Even in the geographical sense, it is neither a continent, nor a sub-continent. If the concept of South Asia vanishes, the concept of parity also departs. This is what happened when US President Barack Obama announced the Af-Pak strategy in March 2009. The strategy did two things: whereas it preserved Pakistan’s Major Non-NATO Ally status (given to Pakistan in June 2004) to mollify Pakistan’s sense of insecurity, it deprived Pakistan of its yearning for parity with India — by hyphenating Pakistan with Afghanistan. The hyphenation counterpoised the parity narrative.

The Af-Pak strategy was a declaration for the first time that the parity practised during the Cold War had gone: The US was no more respecting Pakistan’s desire for parity with India. Later on the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act of October 2010 reinforced the same, besides making it public that the US had attained the position of an interlocutor (and not a mediator) for India to speak to Pakistan, as the US had been doing in Europe to speak to Russia on behalf of East Europe; in Asia Pacific, to speak to China on behalf of Japan; and in the Middle East, to speak to Arab countries on behalf of Israel. This was the fourth responsibility the US took upon itself. Subsequently, the US officials chose to speak to Pakistan on the issue of terrorism, based on terrorist incidents on mainland India, instead of letting India to do the same, as is happening currently.

China has been trying to save Pakistan at the UNSC level by vetoing any resolution meant to declare global outlaws the persons both India and US think are involved in terrorism, especially in India. The frequency of tabling such resolutions is bound to exhaust China’s will to neutralise them. In Afghanistan, which is not a South Asian country puritanically, Pakistan is unwilling to offer any parity to India. The country demands India’s exclusion under a list of reasons which are inviting no serious heed.

The US policy to speak on behalf of India has worsened Pak-US relations. In every second statement, either the US reflects India or Pakistan finds India. In short, Pakistan is currently shorn of both parity with India and rapport with the US.

 

The writer can be reached at qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

Published in Daily Times, January 8th 2018.