Inventing an enemy
FOR the first time in Pakistan’s history, the national consensus on the broad outlines of foreign policy is in danger of being shattered.
A new and mortal enemy is being invented — as if we do not have enough enemies, as if all postulates on which Pakistan’s foreign policy has been based since Independence are absurd and outdated, as if a new streak of wisdom has dawned.
At stake are the fundamental principles on which the foreign policy of Pakistan — of any country — should be based. Unless checked, it is raw emotions and street wisdom rather than cold economic and geopolitical realities that will govern the conduct of our external relations.
Let us recall some names: those names which gave consistency to Pakistan’s foreign policy and made it emerge on the world’s diplomatic map by evolving policies that made eminent sense: Liaquat, Bogra, Suhrawardy, Noon, Ayub, Manzur Qadir, Bhutto, Yahya, Sahibzada and, yes, Ziaul Haq. Notwithstanding their domestic policies, these men had a correct understanding of the international forces at work and took advantage of the Cold War to give Pakistan a foreign policy direction that on the whole paid dividends. That there were negative aspects of it goes without saying, but then what else is foreign policy if not the sum total of gains and losses? At the end of the day, you calculate whether the gains outweighed the losses.
The event of Sept 11, 2001, posed to Pakistan a challenge no less grim than that in 1971. Its aftermath has been traumatic not just for Pakistan, but for world Muslims, for the criminality of a few misguided men imposed on the Islamic world a confrontation for which it was not ready and which was never needed. Even though both sides have taken pains to emphasise that the US-led war on terror is not a war on the Muslim world, both realise that the 9/11 tragedy has created between the Muslim world and the West a gulf that would take decades to bridge, if at all. Unless something as catastrophic and malignant as 9/11 rocks the globe, the war on terror, perhaps under a new name, will continue to define American-European policies for decades to come.
We are now face to face with a situation in which Pakistan is not only being demonised 24/7 (‘An ally from hell’); the fact that it has been traumatised by terrorism has gone unnoticed, for the world doesn’t know — or if it knows, doesn’t care to acknowledge — that terrorists have killed 40,000 Pakistanis, only 3,000 of them security personnel.
The onslaught by America’s loyalist media is relentless. In fact, such is the well-orchestrated campaign in sections of the media against Pakistan that official American denials tend to lose credibility and drown in the din. In this category falls the attack on America’s Kabul embassy. Subsequent denials — muffled, muted but on record — by administration officials, including Hillary Clinton and hesitant generals, sought to set the record straight, but the damage had been done.
Pakistan has limited assets with which to make its point of view heard in a diplomacy-cum-media billingsgate, but such assets it does have are being thrown away by some of our own people who seem determined to foist on Pakistan a confrontation that common sense cannot justify in this unipolar world The line-up of powers as seen in the 20th century till the end of the Cold War has ceased to exist. There is no line-up, and there is no countervailing power or bloc of powers willing to stand up to the US-Nato camp, and such anti-American rhetoric as one hears from time to time in Moscow and Beijing is shallow and is for record’s sake a show of defiance that is not intended to be confrontational.
Invariably, the dissent is on peripheral issues — Libya, Syria or Iran — and not on core issues. Russia has never in a significant way made an issue of Nato’s eastward expansion, and
Beijing has all but frozen the Taiwan issue. Rightly, like India, they are aware of America’s military and economic power and know that a head-on clash with the US will be counterproductive and hurt their national interests.
India is on surer ground. It is basking in the warmth of a tacit alliance with America — sealed by the nuclear deal. Quite understandably, it has lowered its anti-Pakistan rhetoric to give Islamabad a free hand to get embroiled with Washington as deeply as possible. New Delhi has never been very happy with Pakistan’s ‘major non-Nato ally’ status and the subsequent $28bn or so in the form of bilateral and multilateral loans, grants, write-offs and economic and military aid.
Not all this money came from America, but the 28-member Friends of Democratic Pakistan, the World Bank and the IMF would not have acted without a nod from Washington.
For that reason New Delhi is watching the deterioration in US-Pakistan relations with great interest, hoping for the best. In this fond hope, India has allies in this country, for its sympathies are with those who want to gift a new enemy to Pakistan.
Caught in a nutcracker situation, Pakistan is now faced with a well-funded and well-armed militant mobocracy threatening to burn the country down from end to end if foreign policy were not subjected to their ‘ideological’ whims. There may be many turncoats and ‘moderate’ politicians in this motley group of firebrand orators, but those calling the shots are essentially brazenfaced apologists for the terrorists. To them it is their interests in Afghanistan and not those of Pakistan and its people that matter.
Those who ignore geography and history in the formulation of foreign policy shouldn’t venture into the minefield of statecraft.