Pakistan casts away frontline role
January 06, 2012
Pakistan has almost quit the frontline role in the US-led War on Terror after NATO airstrike on Slala Check Post last November, which took lives of two dozen security personnel. Whatever has been left is the willingness to be engaged provided the parliament gives assent to this end.
Islamabad has practically ended its role in the War on Terror. It has got Shamsi Airbase vacated, closing down supply routes for foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan and ending coordination with the NATO forces struggling against the Taliban near Durand Line.
Pakistan is asking the US, which is following a deadline of July 2014, to completely withdraw from its troubled neighborhood, spelling new terms of engagement. Whatever agreement is signed in this regard will be ratified by the Parliament. Washington has responded positively and its officials say they are hopeful to revive working relations with Islamabad.
Paradigm shift in the foreign and defense policy of Pakistan became evident when the government summoned envoys from across the world to Islamabad in the aftermath of Slala incident and briefed them about the new course it wanted to follow on the foreign policy front.
The new direction certainly implies breaking away with the past whereby it played a frontline role of Capitalist world, both in its war against Soviet Union as well as Taliban-Al-Qaeda alliance.
The vision of the PPP, now leading coalition government in the Centre and provinces (sans Punjab), was spelled in detail by the co-chairperson of the party, now the president of the country, Asif Ali Zardari, right after the 2008 elections.
In an interview, he had said his party would like to leave the resolution of Kashmir issue, which has had caused three wars with India, up to the next generation and promote trade meanwhile. Later, on one occasion, he had expressed the desire to transform South Asia on the model of European Union where there is no restriction on the free movement of people and capital across the borders.
After coming into power, the PPP enthusiastically took forward the peace process and reached the point of making a good break through, particularly regarding terrorism and smuggling (fifth round of secretary level talks), but the Mumbai attacks stalled the process.
It was only the last year when India agreed to delink the incidents of terrorism and the peace process between the neighbors. The government took a bold step, given the anti-India feeling inside the country, to grant Most Favourite Nation (MFN) status to India, which it was demanding since long.
Since becoming president of the country, Zardari has been visiting China frequently and supporting its efforts to link its western regions with Gulf and Europe through reviving the historical Silk route, hoping that Pakistan would benefit from the vast rail and road infrastructure it intends to lay down for this purpose. He has also lobbied for full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) comprising Central Asian states and jointly led by China and Russia.
Addressing a public gathering at the mausoleum of his slain wife Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bux on December 27, he said Pakistan would become part of Asian trading bloc and that the country has principally decided not to join any ‘aggression’ bloc again.
There is strong indication that Pakistan under PPP has clear preference for the SCO, of which India is also going to become a full member, hoping not only material benefits but also getting rid of the burden of defense, marked with arms race and maintenance of large army due to enmity with the eastern neighbor. The SCO will also be in a better position to bring peace in Afghanistan, for this country essentially lies on the Silk route which China is working to revive.
Pakistan’s repositioning itself essentially makes it hub of regional trade. The country’s democratic standing and willingness to engage in regional trade will shun the decades old policy to use religious militancy as a means to promote political ends — a condition which America and EU have been insisting on for their full engagement with Pakistan.