A lesson and some hope

US is an imperialist country. Such countries make friends, enemies on their own terms and in their own self-interest

M Ziauddin January 27, 2015
The writer served as Executive Editor of The Express Tribune from 2009 to 2014

There is a lesson for Pakistan in the recent visit of President Barack Obama to India and the back-slapping warmth with which he was received by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And there is hope, too, for us in the perceived increase in the understanding between Washington and New Delhi as a result of the visit. The lesson is too simple to miss. In foreign relations, national self-interests rather than hollow honour and empty pride dictate the decision-making process. Also, in world affairs, like in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. That is perhaps, why a man who was refused the US visa in 2005 for his alleged involvement in the massacre in Gujarat state was not only allowed to pay a state visit to the US when he became his country’s prime minister, but his invitation to the US president to attend India’s 66th Republic Day ceremonies was also accepted readily. On the other hand, India played host to the president of a country whose law-enforcement agencies only months before had insultingly strip-searched one of its female diplomats for committing what in India’s view was not such a serious transgression of the law. So much so that India, out of pique, had started investigations into several American institutions in New Delhi, forcing the US ambassador to India, an exasperated Nancy Powell, to resign before the completion of her tenure. Both the US and India, in their national self-interests, seemingly swept their respective complaints against each other under the carpet and let pragmatism rather than futile emotions dictate their foreign policy decisions.

And the hope? This is again not a very complicated proposition to understand if we temper Pakistan-US relations with our national self-interest rather than see Washington’s moves that it makes for promoting its own global self-interest as a conspiracy to force us to accept Indian hegemony in the region. The US is an imperialist country. Such countries make friends and enemies on their own terms and in their own self-interest and are not dictated by noble or altruistic sentiments in dealing with countries, most of whom they regard as their chattels. The best way to deal with such countries is to keep mutual conflicts reduced to the minimum and maintain focus on issues on which the two can cooperate.

Once, when in the early days of Pervez Musharraf’s rule, the media was lamenting almost on a daily basis that Pakistan was suffering from global isolation because of military rule, the dictator invited a group of senior journalists for a briefing on the issue and claimed that because of four reasons, Pakistan can never be consigned to isolation. His four reasons: 1) Hub of fundamentalism; 2) Hub of drug-trafficking; 3) Borders with China and; 4) Nuclear arms. This was clearly a disingenuous argument. All these four reasons are negative and because of three of these, Pakistan is being treated as a pariah by many countries. And even on the matter of sharing borders with China, it is interesting to see what Beijing is offering to India on the occasion. In a message to the Indian president on India’s Republic Day, his Chinese counterpart expressed China’s willingness “to make concerted efforts with India to lift their strategic cooperative partnership oriented to peace and prosperity to a higher level”. An article on January 26 that appeared in the Global Times and People’s Daily, pointed out: “As both are emerging powers, which have the huge potential of being important forces in the international community, China and India should see more space for cooperation instead of contention.”

So it is by exploiting the common grounds, like eliminating terrorist safe havens from our soil and helping Kabul establish peace and stability in Afghanistan, that we could be in a position to encourage the US to leverage its increased understanding with the Indian leadership to help diffuse the nuclear flashpoint that the region has become because of the unresolved Kashmir dispute. Even for India to play ‘a central role beyond its borders’ with almost half of its population still writhing below the poverty line, it will first have to come to some kind of peaceful settlement with Pakistan on all the contentious issues plaguing their bilateral relations.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th,  2015.

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Sexton Blake | 8 years ago | Reply

@Yo2Da2: You are quite right in regard to spats between disparate groups such as the French/English etc. However, I do wish to emphasize that the reason I became involved in this article regarding spats between India/Pakistan is that I am concerned that serious problems, not least of which are the LOC and economic ones, will not be satisfactorily resolved as a result of the spats, and may continue into the distant future. Obviously, problems exist everywhere, but it would be pleasing if some of the more pressing ones in the sub-continent could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Thank you for your comment.

Yo2Da2 | 8 years ago | Reply @Sexton Blake: Speaking of spats (though lighthearted in tone) between the French and the English go back much farther. In the US, good-natured spat between South Dakotans and North Dakotans, Northern "Yankees" and Southern "Rebels" can also get childish and cringe-worthy. (Yes, sometimes the rude remarks between Indian "trolls" and Pakistani - chauvinists? - does seem overdone and meaningless. But none of the childish and really hateful and mean-spirited comments on ET cannot match the virulence of some comments from "Hindus" on Indian papers on opinions criticizing Hindutva-inspired stuff Really disgusting. In any case, childish behavior and talk does not advance understanding or cooperation.
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