Nato supplies through Pakistan have resumed despite internal opposition and criticism concerning the transit fees associated with the resumption. Although the US has issued a mutually incriminating apology, it has not yet abandoned its ‘do more’ mantra, nor do US policymakers view Pakistan with any less distrust. The thaw in US-Pakistan relations is thus hardly anything to become complacent about given the impending array of challenges, which will emerge out of Nato’s phased withdrawal from Afghanistan.
While use of strategic depth by Pakistan is blamed for its reluctance to wholeheartedly support the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, it is unfair to put the entire blame of failure in Afghanistan on Pakistani shoulders. In fact, the often quoted notion of using Islamic militants to obtain strategic depth within the region itself needs revision given that Pakistan has also suffered enormously at the hands of Islamic militants over the past decade. The deep state’s apparent ability to manipulate these militants to achieve foreign policy objectives must also have corroded.
Moreover, collateral damage of drone strikes and other incursions into Pakistani territory — including use of an immunisation campaign to confirm the location of Osama bin Laden and manipulating provision of international aid to achieve strategic objectives — have all caused immense harm to the US image in Pakistan which makes it very hard for our government to remain a key US/Nato ally. This problem of negative perceptions is hardly one-sided.
There is evidence of increasingly negative portrayals of Pakistan in the US as well, ranging from accusations of duplicity in contending with militancy to challenging the very feasibility of the country as a viable nation-state. The US-based Fund for Peace institution has continually been questioning Pakistan’s very ability to survive and ranks this sixth most populous nation in the world high on a list of potential failed states. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has also published a recent paper on “Pakistan’s Impending Defeat in Afghanistan” which claims that irrespective of how the coming security transition in Afghanistan pans out, Pakistan is on the inevitable path of further destabilisation if it decides to support the Taliban.
Such lop-sided analysis fails to consider the impact of US policy failures themselves, including its ability to formulate an inclusive governance model in Afghanistan, supplemented by regional cooperation, to deny the Taliban from making a comeback after the impending Nato withdrawal.
Rather than trying to fight fire with fire, the US should have had the sense to invest in international conflict transformation by fostering notions of reconciliation, understanding and coexistence. In our part of the world, the US could have helped resolve the Kashmir dispute to allay Pakistani fears and neutralise the underlying imperative for apparent duplicity or the suspected adherence to the strategic depth doctrine, instead of fanning Pakistani insecurities by its unilateral recognition of Indian nuclear capacity to establish a regional counterweight to China. The US antagonistic relations with Iran have further undermined regional cooperation not only in Afghanistan but also in the Middle East.
It is about time the US administration takes a hard look at how it has been behaving since 9/11 and the resulting strain its actions have put on promoting understanding and cooperation between the West and Muslim nations in general. The former president Jimmy Carter’s recent op-ed for The New York Times has also referred to the waning US moral authority due to the manner in which its counterterrorism efforts are being conducted.
Yet, much of the analysis emerging from prominent US think tanks continues to further demonise the countries with which cooperation is being sought — as is evident from the over-simplified and biased portrayals of Pakistan. This prevailing lack of self-reflexivity must be overcome to prevent indulging in unproductive blame games and to prevent the reinforcing of stereotypes, which only serve to deepen mistrust and suspicions despite revival of transactional ties in the short-run.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2012.
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