Deja vu

Published: February 25, 2014

The writer is a lawyer and author of the book A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan. She tweets at @yasmeen_9

On February 18, 2014, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed a $183 million credit agreement. One dealt with the construction of a hydro-power project in Chitral, while the other pertained to the import of urea fertiliser from Saudi Arabia. This news was accompanied by another; that of Pakistan having decided to support Saudi Arabia in its demand to replace Bashar al Assad’s regime with an interim government. Interestingly, on the very same date, Iran issued a threat to Pakistan to send forces within its borders should it fail to rescue the five Iranian border guards abducted 10 days ago. Ten days ago? Whoa!

Enter Syria. Syria will determine the balance of Middle East politics. Syria holds a hugely important position for Iran. With Hezbollah, Iraq and Syria, Iran converges to form a religious school of thought. The US and Saudi Arabia are on the same page on this one, opposing Iran. Vali Nasr in The Japan Times says, “Syria is now a proxy war, the outcome of which will determine the regional pecking order. In the Mideast, aura of power decides strategic advantage.” (Published June 8, 2013.)

Now enter Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai visited Iran in December 2013. Both countries agreed to sign a “pact of friendship and cooperation”. This comes on the heels of a security agreement, which both countries entered into in 2013 to further enhance security cooperation. Trade between them is healthy and is expected to grow further once the Chahbahar Port becomes operative for heavier traffic.

Moving too close to Saudi Arabia at a time when the US is on the eve of pulling out its combat forces from Afghanistan, with increasing Iranian and Indian interest in Afghanistan, unleashing of terror incidents in Pakistan and growing schismatic clashes, one wrong step can lead Pakistan into a more ferocious proxy war on its soil than so far witnessed.

Shopping for a sugar daddy, Pakistan needs to understand that its interests and those of the sugar daddy may converge on some levels and may diverge on others. A pragmatic evaluation of the long-term national interest of Pakistan needs to be made in the light of the changing geopolitical scenario. Pakistan alone should define Pakistan’s national interest. When lollipops are accepted from a sugar daddy, there is always a price to pay. Pakistan must strive to build a balanced foreign policy, not based on imbalances. Imbalances lead to skewed relationships. Skewed relationships lead to an inevitable mess and inevitable messes to bitterness and mistrust.

Pakistan and the US, too, have had a relationship marked with varying expectations from each other. The fact that the interests of both diverged on many levels was maybe never appreciated by either. “The relationship needs redefinition, based on recognition of divergent interests …” (Husain Haqqani writing in Magnificent Delusions page 350). Somehow, Pakistan seems to be ready to commit the same mistake all over again with a country, it hopes, may invest in its economy. How economic help can translate on the ground in a country fraught with terrorism, and severe power and gas shortages will be a challenge in itself. Not to forget the dangerously volatile and precarious nature of changing regional dynamics.

It is deja vu!

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2014.

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  • Ijaz Khan  On February 24, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    t would be a grave mistake and a folly if this news is true and Pakistan agrees!

    They must analyze,what they would be getting into from the diplomatic angle ,bearing in mind their relations with those powers who have stood with the Syrian governments defense based on the grounds of non-interference by the foreign countries into the internal affairs of a independent and sovereign Syria, both in the UNSC and otherwise.

    Also a point to consider is why the UK and US,who up till now had been openly supporting and aiding these so-called Syrian rebels with arms,have supposedly stopped doing so ?

    If Pakistan apprehends that the Saudis would turn to India,then they must understand that India, would never try to rub the Russian,Chinese and the Iranian the wrong way by getting involved in this western intelligentsia covertly engineered so-called revolution, carried out not purely by Syrian citizens wanting a change,but foreign infiltrated mercenaries.

    I personally strongly disagree about sending Pak-Army or even arms to KSA.At least not till the Syrian crisis and threat to Iran, from them (KSA) and their ally US/NATO gets over .

    Pakistan should not get embroiled in the US game planned for M.E.
    Under the present circumstances strategically having,China,Russia and Iran as an ally is more important then the Saudi dollars.

    Better to offend them and be safe, then by pleasing them and being sorry as experienced from past history

  • FAWWI1  On February 24, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    A copy of this article should be sent to our foreign policy experts to wake them up from siesta.

  • A. Magnet  On February 24, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    COAS’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Saudi Defence Minister visiting Pakistan were indications that something was cooking. This myopic approach to cooperate with KSA against Syria is going to cost Pakistan too much too bear

  • shahbazthuthaal  On February 25, 2014 at 3:14 am

    very good analysis; why Pakistan leadership is always so blind to commit blunders after blunders. Entering into Syria or trying to play the US/Saudi game in Syria will be a blunder of the Century? It will fit into the Perfect design of INDO /US lobby to break up the Nuclear Pakistan in its present shape and break the Pakistan Army? The US under said last year that in 2025 he can see Afghanistan in its present shape and Map but where would PAKISAN be he is not sure??

    I wonder what is PAKISTAN ARMY thinking will they commit they same blunder what they did in 1971 and Kargil???


    regards   Muhammad Shahbaz Thuthaal EME CHS Multan road,lahore. 0301-3667777

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