Pakistan in regional driving seat

Sep 15, 2017
Gen (rtd) Musharraf may just have found his soul mate. A career politician and American, no less.
Cue to one Mr Larry Pressler to come centre stage. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it should. Named after him is the infamous Pressler Amendment, providing that failure of the US president to annually certify that Pakistan was bomb free would result in a ban on most economic and military assistance.
Yet both may just have shot their respective countries in the foot over our nuclear weapons. Musharraf, in a bid to deflect from pending murder charges in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, offered the whole world an untimely reminder that we had sold nuclear secrets to President Trump’s bogeyman, Iran. Indeed, in a bid to plug his new book, Pressler this week wrote an opinion piece for the American press about how the US should be more concerned over our nukes than North Korea’s. Among his recommendations, Pressler has called for Pakistan to be treated as a rogue state. But it is here that he risks coming undone: “The only reason Pakistan is not a totally failed state is that countries like China and the US prop it up with massive amounts of foreign aid”.
This last may or may not be true. It is hardly the point. For what Pressler has essentially implied is this: the US despite being well aware of the Pakistan nuclear record, nevertheless has continued to pump foreign aid to this country, possibly explaining how we can afford to be have the world’s largest nuclear stockpile. Certainly what Larry Pressler confirmed was what the world already knew: the US has violated the very spirit of his legislative namesake.
Yet what does this mean, if anything, in real terms?
The answer is several things.
It may well weaken the US position if the latter does move to the UNSC to have us slapped with sanctions over our terror record, or lack thereof. And this goes beyond presumed embarrassment over Chinese and Russian pledges to veto any such manoeuvres. For it may not come to that.
Mr Pressler’s loose pen might well have made it impossible for President Trump to even give way to token multilateralism at the UN. For he will no longer enjoy the manufactured moral high ground.  It won’t matter that China stands accused of the same. Because of one thing we can all be sure: Trump will do his utmost to distance the US, academically at least, from Beijing. So he will likely prefer to keep mum.
All of which is good news for Pakistan.
As are the outwards signs that we are all set to embrace the much touted ‘paradigm shift’ in regional policy terms, especially given recent flurries of diplomatic activity. Trump will of course try credit this to his tough talk. China, for its part, will try and do the same in terms of presenting CPEC as the golden bargaining chip that affords it leverage not even enjoyed by the world’s lone superpower.
Yet what the US and much of the world forgets is this: CPEC benefits both parties. Beijing, too, has much to gain given that Pakistan’s portion of the Corridor covers a vastly greater landmass. Meaning that the Sino-Pak ‘friendship’ is on a more equal footing than is mostly understood.
Bluntly put, therefore, any shift in regional policy will be a unilateral move on Pakistan’s part and in its own interests. And that may not at be so bad, after all.
Daily Times, September 15, 2017

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