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Strategic Blowback

by Newsweek Pakistan
A decorated monument representing Chagai Mountain, where Pakistan conducted its first nuclear test. Farooq Naeem—AFP

A decorated monument representing Chaghai Mountain, where Pakistan conducted its first nuclear test. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Pakistan: South Asia’s angry young man.

On the anniversary of Pakistan’s Chaghai nuclear test on May 28, Pakistan felt scared of what might happen next at the hands of terrorists being seduced by its neighbors—India, Iran and Afghanistan—plus, less clearly, America, because it doesn’t like us as a nuclear power. We are in the midst of a strategic muddle if strategy means labeling enemies.

We are busy in “undeclared war” with Afghanistan, as alleged by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. This week we arrested a number of Afghan refugees working as agents of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security and killing innocent Pakistanis to create disorder. We have already accused, in a muffled manner, Iran for sending in RAW agent Kulbhushan Yadav across the Iran-Pakistan border. And our latest beef is that Mullah Mansour was also a Tehran “connection.” (Iran’s ambassador in Islamabad swears it is not so.) India is, of course, the central villain that never accepted Pakistan’s independence: it is collaborating against Pakistan with Iran and Afghanistan, supported by archenemy America that refuses to sell us our F-16s.

Somehow India confuses our strategic map. After an Iran-Saudi Arabia faceoff in the region, we had to lean on the side of the latter, which meant Iran was not a friend. India on the other hand conducted big trade with Iran during sanctions and should have been an enemy of Saudi Arabia, but recently when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jeddah, he was greeted as an ally with a lot of bling. Is our strategic culture black-and-white or what? After the hanging in Bangladesh of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders we recalled fond memories of the Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami as a “friend of Pakistan” and scrapped with Dhaka too, ending with mutual expulsion of diplomats.

That leaves only China on our side. It warded off, through a veto, India’s approach to the U.N. Security Council for the rendition of Masood Azhar, the internationally wanted terrorist living in Bahawalpur. But the problem is that China somehow connects up with everyone, ready with big money and big trade. It is a favorite of both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it trades big with India. China is the largest single-country trading partner with archenemy America, second only to Canada. The world thinks Pakistan has isolated itself with a lot of terrorists aligned with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group in its guts killing innocent citizens, which Pakistan blames on its neighbors.

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