By General Mirza Aslam Beg
Pakistan and the United States of America have been allies for over half a century and Pakistan earned the distinction of being the ‘Most Allied Ally’ and the ‘Non-NATO Ally,’ and also enjoyed the blessings of Strategic Partnership, yet the relationship has been the roughest of all, marked by sanctions, aid and assistance cut-off, exploitation, violation of national sovereignty and betrayals. Yet Pakistan went to the extent of being foolish and naive, to join the American war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, in 1980 and again in 2001 against the brotherly Afghan people. The fall-out of these two wars has adversely affected Pakistan’s security. And as the things have gone wrong for the Americans, facing defeat in Afghanistan, Pakistan is being pressurized to Do More and help the American exit from Afghanistan. Pakistan would definitely help, provided the terms of engagement are clearly defined, to achieve the purpose of a meaningful, multi-dimensional relationship, marked by trust and respect for each other.
Necessarily, the new terms of engagement must lead to an enduring strategic partnership, founded upon ‘institutionalized mutual cooperation mechanism,’ to secure regional stability and a stable and prosperous future for Pakistan. There are very many aspects to be considered and defined regarding terms of engagement, but only seven are mentioned here, which encompass the real issue.
- Sovereign Equality. There must be respect and realization of sovereignty of Pakistan, which has been wanting since 1960, when President Ayub Khan, pleaded in his book for ‘Friends and Not Masters.’ In fact, there are two obsessions, which are detrimental to equality in relationship. One is the notion of ‘power and pride of a great power’ and the other is the ‘vast disparity in the civilizational heritage of the two countries.’ Both are very critical issues of national sensibilities and demand very careful consideration.
- Trust Deficit. Although we have been allies for over half a century yet we never enjoyed the trust needed for a meaningful partnership. There have been many ups and downs in the relationship during this period. It remained good, so long as the purpose was served. For example, Pentagon now says: “We have no choice but to maintain a strong relationship,” because exit from Afghanistan, without Pakistan’s support would be a disaster. I am sure, once, the exit is completed, Pakistan would again be abandoned. With such ‘wuthering feelings of love and hate’ between the two countries, there is very little hope of establishing an enduring friendship. Both the countries, particularly the Americans, therefore have to develop the mechanism to remove the existing trust deficit.
- Hegemony. Pakistanis, as a nation do not relish hegemony, in any form and shape. It was our own fault that we could not eliminate West Pakistan’s hegemony over East Pakistan that preferred to drift away in 1971. Now the Americans want to establish Indian hegemony over the region, from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka and reduce Pakistan to a client state. This will never happen, because the Pakistani people love freedom, as much as the Afghans, who have sacrificed so much to win their freedom from the two hegemons, the Soviets and the Americans. Simply follow the Chinese example, who do not meddle into the internal affairs of others, nor do they try to establish military bases around the world, seeking primacy and global hegemony.
- Exit from Afghanistan. Occupation of Afghanistan is the ‘Mother of All Evil,’ and therefore exit from Afghanistan has to be carried out, on the basis of three principles: One. It is the winner, the Taliban, who must be allowed to lay down the terms for peace in Afghanistan. Two. The neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan that has suffered the most, as a result of foreign aggression in Afghanistan, must be on-board, to workout the mechanism for transfer of power, and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Three. All the countries involved in the invasion of Afghanistan must be made to pay the war damages. The Soviets, Americans and the European Union are the invaders, while India, Pakistan and others are the collaborators, including the United Nations, which authorized the invasion. They all have to pay for the crime, they committed.
- Kashmir. People of Kashmir have been deprived of their ‘right of self determination’ and their struggle, now has reached a point of decision. It cannot be ignored any more, as President Obama preferred to, under the Indian pressure. It is no more a back-burner issue, because, after the exit of the occupation forces from Afghanistan, Kashmiris struggle for freedom will heat-up and may well explode into the Indian face. If we fail to find a political solution soon enough, peace in South Asia, will remain hostage to Kashmir.
- Nuclear Apartheid Policy. Pakistan has been subjected to a nuclear apartheid policy by the West for no rhyme or reason, through senseless media hype, challenging Pakistan’ ability to provide security safeguards to its nuclear assets, and the threat of Islamic extremists. It’s all nonsense and is part of the ploy to keep Pakistan under pressure, knowing fully well, that as a nuclear capable state, Pakistan has ‘the best record of nuclear safety.’ There has been no accident, no leakage and no pilferage of fissile material ever. It is time now, to come to terms with Pakistan’s nuclear capability and its policy of minimum nuclear deterrence, which is India specific.
Pakistan and USA require some cool thinking and depth of perception, to remove the irritants which have clouded our relations. We have to look beyond into the future and develop policies and plans, in harmony with the changing trends and temper of the globalized world. The dogmas of the cold war period do not apply any more. In fact we have to invent, new Rules of Business, for an enduring partnership.