As expected, Pakistan has rejected US President Donald Trump’s new ‘Afghanistan and South Asia strategy’ for being one-sided and insensitive to its legitimate security concerns. In a comprehensive statement issued following a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), top civilian and military leadership formally voiced disquiet over scapegoating Pakistan for the US’ own failure in the war in Afghanistan, ignoring the sacrifices of its people in the fight against terrorism that has cost tens of thousands of lives, and economic losses worth $120 billion as well as TTP finding safe havens inside Afghanistan, and the socio-economic costs of hosting nearly three million Afghan refugees.
What has hurt Pakistan most about the Trump policy speech is crossing of its red lines as he expressed apprehensions about its nuclear programme, and assigned India an enhanced role in Afghanistan. The NSC statement reminded the US that Pakistan has an internationally recognised “robust and credible command and control system” and is a “responsible nuclear weapons state.” Regarding the other issue, even a casual observer of the scene can tell bringing India into the equation can only exacerbate Pak-India tensions and lead to dangerous consequences for the region. Further, that Pakistan would never accept its arch rival India’s role as a regional hegemon Trump seeks for it. Unsurprising, the NSC has reacted strongly, saying “India cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region when it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours, and is pursuing a policy of destabilising Pakistan from the east and the west.” In fact, speaking at press briefing following Trump’s unveiling of his new policy, the US State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said resolving Kashmir – the core issue of dispute between Pakistan and India – might help in bringing peace to Afghanistan, thereby acknowledging that the rivalries between the two countries could play out in Afghanistan, hindering rather than helping resolution of America’s longest war. Many independent foreign policy experts in the US have also warned that playing favourites in South Asia can have undesirable consequences.
Having said its piece, Pakistan has rightly iterated its commitment to international endeavours for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, efforts to shore up support on the diplomatic front have been intensified. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is preparing for unscheduled visits to China and Russia. These two major powers have already come out strongly in Pakistan’s support, eulogising its sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and stressing the importance of its role in resolving the Afghan conflict. He also needs to go to Iran, which is not only a next-door neighbour but also has a stake in the Afghan situation. A joint effort by the regional countries for a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war is where the focus must remain.