Regional Stability | Editorial

Trump Town appears to have a thawing of ties on its mind ahead of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to this country next week. For Washington has gone on the record as saying that it is willing to give the new set-up a little breathing space to try and reset the Indo-Pak relationship. This is to be welcomed. The last thing that the Imran Khan government needs is undue American pressure as it navigates its way through an often hostile neighbourhood. And then there is the not un-small matter of the message that this sends Prime Minister Modi; who infamously termed Pakistan the biggest stumbling to Sino-Indo peace.
Of course, commitment to the normalising of ties between Islamabad and New Delhi has to be a reciprocal one. And one that does not put Kashmir intermittently on the backburner while pledging to resolve all outstanding water disputes. Yet the window of opportunity for building mutual confidence remains small. Thus it is imperative that this process is conducted in the absence of external interference.
This is not to say that Pakistan must avoid a multilateral approach to easing regional tensions. Far from it. That China has, for example, promised to open up the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as one such forum to give Indo-Pak peace a chance is to be appreciated. And while this might not be entirely to the US liking, the latter must understand that pragmatism offers the best means of dealing with ground realities. Or put another way, there is vast difference between being part of a neighbourhood and maintaining permanent interests.
All of which should translate comfortably into the White House’s dealings with this country. That terrorism will top the agenda of the Pompeo meeting is understood. But this must be a two-way conversation whereby Pakistan’s security concerns are recognised in terms of both its eastern and western borders. Towards this end, a roadmap for Afghan peace as seen through American eyes must be put on the table. This has to go beyond assurances that the US supports a Kabul-owned and -led process to bring the Taliban to negotiations. Particularly in light of both Washington and the Ghani government’s decision to boycott the now cancelled Russian moot; in which the Taliban had been ready to participate. If nothing else, had this gone ahead, it would have offered the opportunity to clarify what the evolving US permanent regional presence entails. For now, all that has been confirmed is that there will be no troop withdrawal before the end of next year; something that is at odds with Taliban demands.
Thus Trump Town would do well to come to the mini powwow here with all its cards in hand; ready to place them on the table. For it must understand that Pakistan is not a regional pariah. And that is has powerful friends such as China and Russia; both of which have proved more than willing to step in where the US has proved lacking. Indeed, Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to meet Khan and his team just days after Pompeo.
It will therefore be in everyone’s interest if a multilateral approach to regional peace and security is pursued; keeping in mind the interests of those who live in this neighbourhood. For the last thing that anyone wants is for these to be sacrificed in a proxy war for hegemonic influence. *
Published in Daily Times, September 1st 2018.
Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/291078/regional-stability/

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