A number of significant regional and global events suggest that we are entering a new phase of the global realignment, and the affairs surrounding the campaign against extremism are the heart of this flux.
One such event is hardening of the Russian position on Syria and the break down of the US-Russia talks to reach an agreement there. Subsequently, Russia warned that it would shoot down American planes if they tried to target Syrian forces. There are concerns that because of the breakdown of talks, the US may attempt and alternative approach.
Then there is the dramatic passing of the law by US Congress called Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), over riding President Obama’s veto. This act would allow American citizens to sue foreign governments over terrorism charges. Under threat are the very regimes that US government considers allies in the campaign against extremism.
And then we have the deepening US-India defense ties, signified by the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA), which will allow US to use Indian bases and ports.
Meanwhile, the security situation of Afghanistan continues to deteriorate and the reconciliation process appears to be going nowhere. Moreover, Pakistan’s Special Envoy for Kashmir, Mushahid Hussain, was propagating the concept of Greater South Asia during his visit to Washington DC – as he presented the nations perspective in the aftermath of the Uri Base attack, and Indian claims of having carried out surgical strikes. Speaking at the Atlantic Council (https://youtu.be/BdYY9JNP0AU) on October 5, 2016, Senator Mushahid Hussain seemed to be linking the resolution of Afghanistan and Kashmir, emphasizing on a holistic approach (http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/events/past-events/dispute-in-focus-pakistan-s-perspective-on-kashmir).
US-Pakistan Relation and China
But how does the above context help us understand the present state of US-Pakistan relations. POLITACT and NEXT TV co-hosted a special TV program in Washington DC to analyze the perceptions and perspectives surrounding the US-Pakistan relations on September 28, 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2ZgFZRv5ko&feature=youtu.be).
The guests included Mr. Ikram Sehgal, who is a Defense and Security Analyst and the Chairman of Pathfinder Group in Pakistan, and Dr. Marvin Weinbaum, who is the Director of Pakistan Studies Center at the Middle East Institute.
During his recent visit to the US. Mr. Ikram Sehgal also presented Pakistan’s perspective at an event at the Heritage Foundation in a seminar titled: Geopolitics and Economic Development: Assessing the China, Pakistan Economic Corridor (http://www.heritage.org/events/2016/09/china-pakistan-corridor).
Following are the Key Insights that emerged from these discussions:
1. While US supports the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project, it would not like China to use it strategically to gain advantage.
2. The emerging American position regarding Afghanistan is that success there cannot be achieved in absence of change in Pakistan’s stance of maintaining a Pushtun leverage there – and counter Indian influence. The US is increasingly viewing instability in Afghanistan and Kashmir conflict as a consequence of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and not as indigenous insurgencies.
3. While the primary focus of China may be on boosting the economy of Pakistan, US and India want the country to worry about countering extremism – and Uri attack helps in shifting that focus.
4. While US policy circles are hesitant in endorsing the CPEC project, American companies are already involved and are participating in the Chinese One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, of which CPEC is a part. There appears to be a contradiction in American political and economic objectives towards the region.
For example Caterpillar sponsored the Silk Road Summit on September 26, 2016 in Washington DC. The conference was titled “Exploring Business, Trade & Investment Opportunities on the New Silk Road”. Business leaders and government representatives from the region and the US attended the conference.
Moreover, under its New Silk Road Initiative, US has helped in building the interoperability between customs and transit systems of different nations in the region, which may benefit projects being undertaken under OBOR.
5. Pakistan, on the other hand, views the CPEC project as a Win-Win initiative and wishes other regional nations such as India, Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia join as well.
However, this does not fit well with the Indian desire to isolate Pakistan, exert economic pressure on it, and thus change Pakistan’s role towards Kashmir and Afghanistan. Moreover, CPEC decreases American leverage to influence Pakistan’s perceived behavior, while increasing its reliance on India.
Politicization of the Campaign Against Terrorism
From the observations laid down above, one can deduce: the focus of the US ties with Pakistan is primarily on countering extremism. Moreover, the economic assistance that is offered to Pakistan is also contingent upon progress on the extremism front.
However, when it comes to China: it appears to be giving more credence to economic variables as a way to counter extremism. Recent Chinese statements suggesting to India to not use terror for political gains demonstrates how it views the evolving campaign against terrorism. When it comes to the matters of Middle East, Russia and China have both propagated non-intervention and upholding of national sovereignty. This may also be the reason why Russia and Pakistan are gradually moving closer.
A perception is taking hold now that the campaign against extremism has become a tool in the tussles of the global balance of power. This has led to the hardening of the Russian and Chinese positions related to these matters in the UN Security Council, and much to the frustration of US. However, this has created a dangerous situation where campaign against non-state-actors risks transforming into inter-state conflicts.