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Old Thursday, June 23, 2016
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Default Strained foreign ties

Strained foreign ties

GEOGRAPHY has its own security imperatives. It also has its own advantages. A long, narrow country, Pakistan has two potential sources of regional strength: shared borders with four countries and access to a sea that connects onwards to the world’s trading routes.

Yet, the architects of this country’s security policy have somehow contrived to once again turn potential advantages into growing hazards.

The National Assembly echoed on Tuesday to questions from opposition parliamentarians that together amounted to asking the government why the country is not on good terms with most of its immediate neighbours and suffering increasing friction in its relationship with the US superpower.

The questions were somewhat opportunistic and self-serving: the PPP had virtually no influence on regional ties in its last term in office and the PTI is more than willing to play the role of hawk when it comes to relationships with Afghanistan and the US.

Yet, the opposition parliamentarians’ opportunism aside, the questions they asked had a great deal of validity. With Afghanistan, Iran, India and the US, an alarming degree of emotionalism and unwelcome policy slants appear to be intensifying problems rather than solving them.

Clearly, Pakistan has its legitimate grievances where those countries are concerned.

The Afghan government appears to want to transfer blame for its own failures on the political and security front to Pakistan while doing little to address the issue of anti-Pakistan militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

The possibility of Iran allowing its territory bordering Balochistan to be used to stoke trouble inside Pakistan is unwelcome and unnecessary.

India seems unsure whether it wants to solve the terrorism problem that plagues the bilateral relationship or use the spectre of terrorist violence to not engage Pakistan.

The US non-strategy in Afghanistan has exacerbated security problems in that country that the superpower appears to want to blame Pakistan for. But each of those countries also have their own concerns and grievances regarding each other.

Yet, India is finding ways to partner Iran, the US continues to work with the Afghan government, and India and the US are attempting to take their bilateral relationship to historic highs, even as the US frets about market access to India and the latter drives a hard bargain on a range of issues.

Somehow, and for reasons unclear, Pakistan is allowing specific security concerns to override positive aspects of relations with each of those countries. Geography is making us prisoner of our fears rather than setting us free to engage and grow.

Source: Strained foreign ties
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2016
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