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Civilizational Disconnect

by Newsweek Pakistan

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

In seeking to cut ties with the U.S., Pakistan risks losing a vital intellectual connection

In some ways, Pakistan is preparing to disconnect from America and join the China-led camp in the new global cold war. The deep-seated motivation behind the calls to say goodbye to a dying superpower is a result of the new equation America has found with India, the neighbor that shapes Pakistan’s outlook on world politics. Pakistan’s numerous madrassas and religious parties are very clear about what this disconnect should be: send the American ambassador packing and break diplomatic relations under the slogan of “no more.” They know that under Pakistan’s new Afghan policy, they will play a central role while the political parties once again become marginal. The politicians, meanwhile, are going along with the extremist anti-American slogans so as not to look irrelevant on the media.

Pakistan, like India, was once a British colony absorbing many values from Britain that were alien to our culture. Britain was intellectually shaped across centuries of humanism under the Age of Reason. The civilizational vector was the English language that set Pakistan apart from other neighboring Muslim states like Iran and Afghanistan. This “western civilization” also extended to a transatlantic “plantation” that became the United States of America and achieved the status of a superpower in the 20th century.

During the Cold War, the Sparta of Pakistan incongruously sided with America while the Athens of India incongruously embraced the Soviet Union. As Pakistan chafed under the value-laden “conditionalities” of the relationship, India kept its intellectual links with America intact while siding with the Soviet Union as a “nonaligned nation.”

As 70-year old Pakistan toughens ideologically it feels like breaking off the “incongruous” intellectual link with America where its gifted youth goes for higher education and where resident Pakistanis are the seventh fastest-growing community. Pakistan has no intellectual connection with China, and language is a barrier, not a vector. India didn’t suffer from the strategic disconnect of the Cold War; Pakistan, by aggressively disconnecting itself from America, will not find an alternative makeweight in China.

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1 comment

Imran Ahmed September 7, 2017 - 7:39 am

I can see where the author is coming from but the analogy to Sparta and Athens makes no sense.
I for one would welcome an exchange of language and ideas from another culture as rich as China’s and not cling on exclusively to Anglo-Saxon civilization embraced by the Pakistani upper middle class.


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