Will Pakistan attempt to rationalize its business relations with groups such as the Haqqani Network, which shelters anti-Pakistan and anti-Western mercenaries, or remain locked in a bloody war of attrition with the United States because of differences over this issue? This represents a huge challenge because all other countries use the American prism to weigh Pakistan on this particular issue.
Equally important is the reset with India. Since the United States – for its geo-political and commercial considerations – views Pakistan also through the Indian prism, one would hope that a real change of mind has taken place in Islamabad. Officials – both military and civilians – insist it has.
Also, the country is looking more towards regional friends and neighbours for fostering economic linkages, they maintain. Pleasant change indeed!
But, one major question that springs from this “change of mind” is whether Pakistan really believes in regional integration through trade and economic cooperation, and is really pursuing a paradigm shift – guided also by China – from militarism to commercial collaboration?
If it does so, it probably stands to win to gain goodwill from all over and can probably also rely on tangible support for infrastructure development and capacity building by friendly countries. During a recent visit to Islamabad, a delegation of the 27-member European Union, for instance, also expressed more or less similar sentiment and underscored its long-term commitment both to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Vygaudas Ušackas, EU Special Representative to Afghanistan, Ambassador, and other officials told Pakistani officials and members of the civil society that as a strong and passionate supporters of integration, the EU encourages integration and regional cooperation .
They said, while the EU stands committed to universal values of peaceful coexistence, human rights and good governance, it also is ready to support in the common cause of fighting terrorism through a counter-terrorism and security strategy. Pakistan, it looks, can certainly initiate a separate comprehensive security channel with the EU countries, regardless of how its relations with Washington play out.
It is about time for Pakistan to shun tactics that it employs in the name of strategic objectives. It must seize the moment and build upon the goodwill it has won following successful negotiations with the US over GLOC and future cooperation on Afghanistan. It must learn from China that head-on confrontation, particularly with the sole super power, only entails conflict, financial bleeding and international ostracization.
No doubt, steadfastness and commitment to national security is virtuous, but overstretching it can be disastrous. Similarly, Pakistan has overplayed the NATO supplies card by demanding extra pound of flesh. It must realize that the window to exploit the GLOC is increasingly limited. Almost six months are already lost. And if we lose another few, the time for optimum utilization of this opportunity, and the ability to use it as a bargaining chip, becomes ever more constrained.