Kerry’s visit

Published January 7, 2015
US Secretary of State John Kerry. — AP/File
US Secretary of State John Kerry. — AP/File

JOHN Kerry’s visit to Islamabad comes in the wake of some major developments in Pakistan and the region.

While to the west Afghanistan braces itself for a transition full of hazards in the wake of America’s withdrawal, in the east India has upped the ante, with skirmishes between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary resulting in the deaths of soldiers and civilians.

Also read: Spat over aid, border firing overshadows Kerry's South Asia trip

However, the most seminal development, and positive in character, is the emergence of a national consensus on terrorism in Pakistan.

Voices that regularly claimed that the war on terror was not ‘our war’ or that the mass murder of civilians could be attributed to America’s drone attacks have been silenced in the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar.

In North Waziristan, the stupendous task of rehabilitating the area and the displaced people remains to be done, but Operation Zarb-i-Azb has destroyed the Taliban’s operational base and crippled their ability to send out death squads against the people and the state from the comfort of their safe haven.

Pakistan and America, thus, have a great deal to talk about when the strategic dialogue begins next week.

The immediate problem is Indian belligerence, and that’s where Pakistan can legitimately hope that Mr Kerry will use his good offices to emphasise to the Indian leadership the need for a quieter border with Pakistan — and not only during President Barack Obama’s visit.

Since hitting a low in 2011 following Abbottabad, Salala and Raymond Davis, America and Pakistan now seem headed towards a more stable relationship.

A cooperative relationship between the two is in their mutual benefit, given Pakistan’s strategic location on the meeting place of South Asia, Southwest Asia and the Gulf — a region in which America has vital economic and geopolitical interests. Washington, thus, can ill-afford to lose Pakistan.

In turn, Islamabad has to realise the damage done to Pakistan’s national interest by the way the establishment overreacted to what undeniably were challenges to Pakistan’s sovereignty in the summer of 2011. But actions such as the choking of the Nato supply line were arguably not commensurate with the degree of provocation.

Without compromising the country’s national interests, our foreign policy managers need to view Pakistan’s relations with the US in a global perspective, and realise the pitfalls inherent in an adversarial relationship with the US-EU combine at a time when India is attempting to emerge as America’s ally in Asia.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2015

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