Pakistan’s geographic placement in the region,
Almost always I have been in a discussion with someone about Pakistan’s role on global stage, there have been arguments about the advantages that Pakistan’s geography gives it on international stage. This is an argument that has been widely promoted by Pakistani electronic and print media. Although one might be bored to read the constant reiteration of Pakistan’s geography, I feel any discussion of Pakistan’s past and future role in international affairs would be pointless if its geographical placement is not considered. On the west there is Afghanistan always providing a battlefield for global powers, in the east inimical India, and in the North world’s next global power China. This geographical proximity to two of the world’s most emerging economies and militaries and a country that has been the battleground where world’s two superpowers have remained engaged for the last three decades has rendered Pakistan insecure and forced it to search for the security of its borders and dependable friends. This came sometimes at the cost of National Sovereignty.
Since no foreign policy can be framed without taking external conditions into account framing an independent foreign policy becomes a job impossible for weak and militarily backward nations like Pakistan. In this context, When it comes to framing foreign policy “National sovereignty”, has sometimes had to be compromised on for larger interests which renders it a mere empty slogan for nations dependent on others for their survival or incapable of defending themselves against the more powerful hostile states.
Pakistan’s quest for security has at times forced it to become involved in wars that were never Pakistan’s creation and lend its shoulder to much more powerful states than the country itself. This policy has both benefited and harmed Pakistan in more ways than one can imagine. It has benefited Pakistan in a way that Pakistan now has become a more potent military force capable of keeping its enemies at bay. This was the price that Pakistan exacted from its allies who wanted Pakistan to be its puppet state. But more than the advantages Pakistan reaped by aligning itself with superpower, Pakistan has born heavy costs in the form of “the current tsunami of terror and drone strikes within the country” that has resulted in thousands of innocent civilian deaths.
Ironically, the state that Pakistan has always sought to maintain friendly and cordial ties with forgets that Pakistan was its frontline state against Soviet Union during the 1980’s and played a pivotal role in its “War on Communism”. It also forgets that Pakistan again became a frontline state in its “War on Terror” when Terrorists brought down the twin towers in New York.
What does the newly elected US’ President Trump’s “War on Radical Islam” means for the moderate Muslims of the world:
The term “Radical Islam” as opposed to “Terrorism” is an oxymoronic term. The ” War on Terror” didn’t directly referred to Muslims as terrorists and was a much broader term ideologically, though its targets were mostly Muslim leaders and populations. Now, The question that begs answer is that whether the new US administration will continue it’s policy of targeting Muslim leaders and populations under the new banner “War on Radical Islam”. Is it a softening of the stance on “Muslim Populations” or a more direct approach to the problem of Islamic militancy? And what will be the Pakistan’s role in this?
As to the questions above, this new term “Radical Islam” has been invented specifically to target ISIS or Daesh. ISIS has much broader ambitions than Al-Qaeda, and this is to re-establish the now defunct Islamic institution of Caliphate. So, the organisation’s target is not only west but Muslim states in particular because the caliphate can’t be effectively established without the entire Muslim Ummah’s backing. And this will require a total revolt by Muslim populations against their current leaders.
From Pakistan’s perspective, ISIS has so far been restricted to Iraq and Syria and has failed to appeal to moderate Pakistanis and consequently, gain a foothold in the country. Though, it may have ties with the TTP (Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) the Taliban Pakistan Chapter. So, it is unlikely that Pakistan will be bothered by USA to take steps against Radical Islam or Obama administration’s “Do More” policy will be followed by current US leadership. The relationship between USA and Pakistan is most likely to suffer from a strategic shift that both countries are taking away from each other.
Will Pakistan allow its soil to be used against its most dependable ally “China”?
There is very little evidence that USA and China are going to take their rivalry beyond South and East China seas or take things back to the era of Cold War. As a matter of fact, the two countries collaborate through dialogue to resolve their outstanding issues. They have so far established 94 dialogue mechanisms under Obama’s administration. Though, President Trump in his campaign rhetoric had made it clear that he will be tough with the Chinese. It is expected that no hostile confrontations will take place between the two countries and therefore, the odds of two countries developing their two separate camps that may remind people of the Cold War era are slim. Economic competition and cooperation will remain there between the countries.
It is also noteworthy that Pakistan now sees China as more reliable and dependable partner than America. So, this time it won’t be America’s gun on Pakistan’s shoulder. This time it would be China’s gun on Pakistan’s shoulder. If and when it will be used against USA or its allies is a much more complex question for any political observer to answer.