Did Senator John McCain visit Pakistan to do some necessary damage control post the Modi-Trump meeting?

Published: July 9, 2017

US Senator John McCain shakes hand with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad on July 3, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

The American Republican Senator, John McCain, visited Pakistan with a bi-partisan delegation this week. It was conducted against the backdrop of a much talked about meeting between the American President, Donald Trump, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Senator McCain met the top civilian and military brass and parted on a note of positivity – Pakistan was an important ally, how Pakistan was imperative for stabilisation in the region, how the US was neutral as far as the Kashmir policy was concerned and so on and so forth. The trip itself was lumped together with a July 4th visit to the American troops stationed in Afghanistan.

As useless and futile as this trip may have seemed, it can be viewed from different angles.

Firstly, Senator McCain is the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the United States Senate. It is one of the most powerful committees since it overlooks and holds all defence related expenditures and actions accountable.

The committee takes defence expenditures extremely seriously and Senator McCain may have flown in just to ensure that American funding for the war against terror is being used for exactly that purpose. He is a frequent visitor to Pakistan, and most of the time, he is here to ensure American military funds are distributed wisely and accordingly.

In line with this analysis, the delegation was taken to South Waziristan to demonstrate the recent gains made by the Pakistan Army. They were given a tour of the area and shown the enhanced surveillance measures, fencing and military fortifications. They were also given an account for the amount of money that was spent on these developments, which had come directly through the US support.

Secondly, Senator McCain has publicly stated that Trump makes him nervous. With Modi visiting Trump and both world leaders fawning over each other, Senator McCain may have sought to ease any concerns that Pakistan was harbouring over issues discussed in Washington.

Additionally, the fact that India lobbied for and had the US officially designate Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist had Pakistan fuming. Salahuddin is considered to be a Kashmiri freedom fighter, therefore, they naturally took offence to him being called a terrorist. Pakistan viewed this as an act of compliance by the US to Modi’s demands.

All throughout Modi’s visit, the topic of Pakistan’s position in the region emerged quite frequently. Pakistan was regarded as a nuisance in the region and according to the two leaders, it needed to curtail terrorism conducted from its soil. Trump referred to India as a ‘true friend’ and both leaders hugged it out for the media. Thus, I feel, Senator McCain may have visited Pakistan in order to do some necessary damage control.

Thirdly, the senator may have also visited Pakistan to prepare them for a huge blow – a few major defence deals between the US and India. Modi’s trip to the US coincided with the $2 billion sale of 22 American made naval surveillance drones to India. While these drones are military grade, their purpose is aerial espionage. The US Vice President Mike Pence recently announced that the US was eyeing further defence deals with India that would see India buying AH-64 attack helicopters and C-17 transport helicopters.

If we dig a little deeper, things don’t seem quite peachy for either India or Pakistan.

As pointed out several times, Pakistan is not in a position to ‘do more’ in its contribution towards fighting terrorism. Trump and his advisors can cry hoarse about what Pakistan does and what it doesn’t do, they can threaten to put Pakistan on the list of countries banned from flying to the US or Trump can publicly tweet his love for Modi, but simply put, Pakistan simply cannot do more.

The Pakistan Army is spread thin on either side of the borders, with India drumming up anti-Pakistan hysteria in the west and an increasing hostile Afghanistan towards the east.

Additionally, internal military operations in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the south of Punjab are complex in nature, solely because they are taking place inside Pakistan. The civilian leadership is embroiled in its own legal battle over the Panama issue and that is the only area it seems to be making any effort towards.

India, on the other hand, needs to be careful about how much weightage they give to Trump’s overtures. In true Trump fashion, he publicly lashed out against India for accepting billions of dollars in order to remain in the Paris Climate Accord.

Additionally, with all the arms deals that India is striking with the US, they must remember that the US will return for its pound of flesh. The drones the US sold to India are primarily meant to spy on China in the Indian Ocean.

China is like the 800 pound gorilla in this region, and India must tread extremely carefully when it comes to aggravating China. The arms deals themselves are a measure for Trump to lower the trade deficit with India. It is estimated that arms trade between India and the US has the potential of reaching to about $20 billion. That is $20 billion that will be going from the Indian national exchequer to American defence companies. That is money that could be spent promoting a digital India, fighting poverty, improving healthcare or even providing public utilities.

Lastly, the South Asian region will never find peace as long Pakistan, India and Afghanistan keep acting macho. No amount of military spending will be enough to fend off turbulence from all directions for Pakistan. India will never truly realise its potential if it keeps nursing paranoia where Pakistan is concerned. Afghanistan should be cautious of antagonising Pakistan too much, lest they close their borders to Afghan trade and start sending all the refugees back.

In conclusion, Senator McCain may come and go as many times as he wishes, but his visits will serve very little purpose. They will only remain to be a photo op session on his way to the much more turbulent Afghanistan.

Wars and battles have to be fought by building economies and providing opportunities to people, not by militarily crushing them into oblivion.

Muhammad Yamin

Muhammad Yamin

The author is a management consultant based in Toronto. He has a keen interest in international business, social enterprise development and application technology trends. He tweets @myamin325 twitter.com/myamin325

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nadeem Rabbani

    An amateurs attempt on the subject. It is a joke to say the least, that India is paranoid with pakistan and India will show coda its place.Recommend

  • Rohan

    No he didn’t.Its just pakistan trying to curry favour with influential people of USA so that USA can ignore the jihad factories of PakistanRecommend

  • G. Din

    No one really cares if Pakistan fumes or burns. Get rid of this notion of your exaggerated self-importance. Remind yourself that you have been sanctioned numerous times, you have been humiliated on and off the battlefield and in the diplomatic field. Yet you try to reassure yourself of how indispensable you are when no one thinks so. You are acting like a mutt which keeps barking incessantly to prove to its current master that it is loyal to him. At one time, it was US, today it is China. You are already preparing for the day China will also dump you by trying to get closer to Russia.
    Did this author read McCain’s statement in Kabul where he said bluntly something to the effect that if Pakistan doesn’t shape up, US will have to change its policy towards it?Recommend

  • Biased

    He was NOT invited. He and Warren showed up as a bipartisan group. They definitely were in Pakistan to gauge the sense of that nation.Recommend

  • Biased

    Interesting angles in this piece. McCain and Pentagon (read Mattis) are looking at ways to re-establish a more balanced relationship with Pakistan considering China’s big move into Pakistan. Afghanistan prognosis and shrill noise from the opposing camp (read Curtis) is making their work harder. US wants to have a better relationship with Pakistan but does not know how to counter Chinese influence and keep Indians happy. So no major breakthroughs should be expected but Pakistan must hedge against things getting worse before any upturn. Swiftly build that fence across Afghan-Iran border and keep sending Afghans back home firmly, build pressure through Tajik, Uzbek governments on Ghani to relent on Chitral-Tajik land link. Once Afghanistan has been bypassed, Kabul will tone it down. A lot to chew, read carefully!Recommend

  • unbeliever

    Foreign policy in the USA is controlled by the President who doesn’t like John McCain – nuff said?Recommend

  • An Indian

    “Thus, I feel, Senator McCain may have visited Pakistan in order to do some necessary damage control.”
    You can feel whatever you want to. Reality is that he gave the pakistanis a buttoms up. This was the last such trip that he made. If Pakistan doesn’t stop spreading terrorism in the region, Pakistan will be the next to be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. And for all your rants against the US, if it weren’t for the US, Pakistan would go belly up in 1 month flat. Your Chinese friends notwithstanding.Recommend

  • Tughral

    McCain wanted to soften the blow of Modi’s visit to India during his visit to Pakistan but he changed tack in his visit to Afghsnistan and the statement that he made back home.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Dear Author.
    WOW, “C-17 Transport Helicopters”!!!
    Too bad the C-17 is an out of production heavy lift aircraft which India already has purchased!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    All should look up June 2017 Pentagon Study “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” to see current American views on the region!
    US Senators including McCain are well aware of implications laid out in study!Recommend

  • Gp65

    And what did McCain say when he reached Afghanistan?Recommend

  • Rafiq Ali

    Not really. US is always treating us like its obedient follower, it gives orders, warnings and we just cower.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Americans need to give visas to corrupt Lahori generals & colonels. Pakistan is not a nation, it has mercenary army which is made to loot.Recommend

  • Rohan

    The president of USA never visits Pakistan even on invitation,what makes you think he wasn’t invitedRecommend

  • G. Din

    What damage control? He issued you an ultimatum.Recommend

  • Pegasus711

    He is always I repeat always salivating for more war. He is the one who has been documented and photographed with the “moderate rebels” and he intends to destroy Syria. Destroying Syria has been the goal of the Zionists and the Wahabis both.

    israel’s defence minister has not shied away from saying that they’d prefer ISIS to Assad in Damascus

    They’ve even treated al qaeda fighters in this war:

    Israeli air Force Once again strikes syrian Army in western syria. That’s Golan heights where these Oh so moderate rebels are also lodged.

    Israelis talk of “neutrality” in Syria’s civil war but the reality is starker

    The Wahabis and the Zionists are joined at the hip. No wonder the great US of A that destroys in the name of “Freedom” and “Democracy” doesn’t give two hoots about the Saudis whereas it goes after the Syrians who have the most welcoming atmosphere for Christians in the middle east. No wonder the patriarch of the Syrian catholic church said that without Assad and Russia, they’d been wiped out by the “moderate rebels” backed by ISrael/USA/TUrkey and Saudi Arabia


  • ValueWalk

    They are all senators. Not presidentRecommend

  • rationalist

    McCain is an idiot still stuck in the cold-war mentality. He thinks by showering more and more freebie dollars he could change the behavior of a country. Has it worked with Pakistan? The Pak establishment kept sucking in the free dollars from Uncle Sam and continued to play its double-games. Stupid McCain wants to encourage this behavior.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Why does ET moderator edits the comment to make them meaningless?Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    You obviously missed the direction US-Pakistan relations are heading, with Team Trump looking at just why America should tolerate Pakistani Duplicity over Afghanistan!Recommend

  • Rohan

    The comments go through a filter,if they comply with the 2 nation theory then they are passed through uneditedRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Yes ET is NYT outlet. Burkha is useless to counter rise of China. It worked so far with Angrez misruling but no more…Recommend

  • ValueWalk

    ultimatum for what?Recommend

  • ValueWalk

    who is John Mc cain? why are we so concerned about him?Recommend

  • Khalid Latif

    Wishful thinking. The visit was for something else. It appears the army may have defused the intentions behind the visit.Recommend

  • Khalid Latif

    Nonsense. Pakistan is the only country out of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan which has been facing real terrorism, sponsored by India and India supported Afghanistan. Think before commenting, Mr Indian.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Isn’t he the guy who picked Sarah Palin for VP and lost terribly against Obama? Yeah doesn’t show much intelligence.

    I saw a video of him on youtube mumbling like an idiot. He has no power within the GOP.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Had you bothered to do any research about John McCain, you would have noted that he is Chairman of The Armed Services Committee in the US Senate!
    So much for your “no power” delusions!Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Yeah..he’s the chairman of the US Armed services committee in the senate….