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Predictable Panic

by Newsweek Pakistan

Nicholas Kamm—AFP

Pakistan needs to adopt a more flexible approach to its foreign policy

Pakistan’s new foreign minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, has responded to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Afghan policy-shift toward India by recalling Islamabad’s sacrifices in “America’s war” against terrorism. His point was that Pakistan’s war was also against the very elements America wanted punished. It goes without saying that Pakistan doesn’t accept the charge that it is sheltering the Afghan Taliban on its territory, making it easy for them to attack and kill American soldiers across the Durand Line. It has done two cleanup operations in its tribal areas and driven out “all the elements” running their training camps there and is even willing to take the Americans there and show them the results of the cleanup.

The media has gone berserk and is cursing the PMLN government for not responding “in kind” to Trump’s maunderings while thanking China for standing up for Pakistan when our own weakling leaders were too scared to speak up. Since Trump’s statement contained encouragement to India to take up the slack in Afghanistan and raise the ante against Pakistan, the TV anchors readily leaned on the “two-nation” nationalism in the “foundational” month of August and gave the call for Pakistanis to rise and confront the “cowardly” enemy. Used to cold war bipolarity in the past, it was easy for them to embrace the presumed U.S.-versus-China square-off in South Asia with India on the American side.

Pakistan’s problem is the growing Indian presence in Afghanistan, and a measure of its panic can be had from the way it keeps exaggerating the number of Indian consulates in Afghanistan organizing terrorist raids inside Pakistan. It also ignores the fact that what India does sitting in Kabul is “reactive” and is seen as such by the world that wants Pakistan to surrender the U.N.-sanctioned terrorists living comfortably inside Pakistan. Pakistan must take a good look at what Trump is doing to America’s foreign policy and give a flexible response like what China’s leader Xi Jinping did when challenged by Trump: he went to Washington and disarmed him with concessions China could afford.

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