An Afghan-Indo-Pak alliance?: Stop looking for Uncle Sam’s hand-outs and helping hand

Published: October 28, 2017
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The teeming millions of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan will keep playing with fire and burn the future of the generations to come.

A beleaguered and bleeding Washington continues with its reckless, outrageous and undignified ways under the leadership of President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, fights for his credibility, as his job as the nation’s top diplomat is seemingly to rack up miles in Asia.

For someone who thinks the utterly untruthful president, and his boss, is a “moron”, that’s quite a challenge. He’s representing the US at a time when the country’s image in the eyes of the world is dwindling; with mixed reactions coming from allies and adversaries alike. There is growing uncertainty surrounding the conduct of Washington’s foreign policy and national security interests.

Be that as it may, despite all its domestic shenanigans, the US still remains a force to be reckoned with, especially in the areas that Tillerson travelled to this past week. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, for various reasons, remain critical to the reconfiguration of Washington’s priorities under the new administration.

The Americans see India as an enduring democracy; a strategic security comrade and a long-lasting trading partner that can potentially play a pivotal role in its quest to subdue extremism.

With Pakistan, their hot and cold, off and on relationship is now at a point where Islamabad is being asked to produce results and come clean when it comes to harbouring terrorists, and assisting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

When it comes to Afghanistan, the US wants to continue its support and work on tying loose ends in its endless pursuit to dislodge the forces of resistance within the country and eventually get out of there. Many would say “good luck with that, America”, since it sounds a bit over-ambitious, like a plan that will never see the light of the day. Afghanistan is a dilemma that Washington seems to be perpetually stuck in.

Donald Trump’s approach to solving global problems, or rather any problem, is brash and boastful, and so is his recently unveiled Afghan policy. He’s not shy of using undiplomatic language or to trespass boundaries of civility. An obvious instance is his handling of the North Korea situation.

By calling Kim Jong Un “little rocket man” and bringing the US and North Korea on the brink of war by virtue of a single tweet, Trump’s incivility is hard to miss. His efforts to pull out from the Iran deal and unwind the détente reached with Cuba are testimony to the fact he doesn’t know the first thing about diplomacy.

Luckily though, Tillerson is a stable head and supports negotiated settlement of disputes. He’s had a distinguished career and understands the notion of cultivating relationships as well as nurturing partnerships; one expects he was successfully able to break the ice with the leaders he met on his recent visit.

It appears that the few hours of “quality time” Tillerson spent with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi were intense but fruitful enough to break new ground, as far as Islamabad joining hands with Washington on equal footing to bring peace to the region is concerned. Tillerson knows well that a total alienation of an ‘incredibly important’ Pakistan in the war against terror will only make an already tough situation ever more difficult to deal with.

Speaking with members of Tillerson’s delegation, one understands that the secretary of state is sympathetic to Pakistan’s grievances. This is not only when it comes to America’s partiality towards India, but also for the lack of appreciation for Islamabad’s efforts to lend a helping hand, vis-à-vis pushing the Washington agenda in the region. It is heartening to note that Tillerson did try to allay Pakistan’s fears, and committed to adopt a balanced approach and an effective communication methodology going forward.

All this obviously does not mean that Pakistan is totally out of the woods. It is true that Pakistan has produced results lately, such as helping free the Canadian-American couple from the Taliban – a gesture appreciated by no less than Donald Trump himself. However, there’s still a tremendous amount of effort that needs to be done, both diplomatically and out in the field.

Pakistan is faced with two adversaries on its borders – Afghanistan and India – and the US sees them both as more cooperative and flexible enough to tow the Washington line. India being the most populous democracy that shares the American democratic ideals, and Afghanistan being subservient to the US, are seen in a more favourable light and easier to deal with as compared to Pakistan – a country dominated by religion, politicised military and unstable democratic institutions.

Tillerson’s arrival on the scene can help steady matters in the AfPak region. He’s so far pushed back against Trump’s brazenness and has demonstrated glimpses of qualities that can help him play a crucial role in the near to long-term.

However, there are strong doubts and apprehensions that Tillerson may just not last long in the job. With Trump breathing down his neck and discrediting the role of diplomacy, Tillerson’s days may be numbered in the State Department. Regardless, as long as he’s holding the job, one is confident that he will continue with vigour and gusto while ignoring the utterly disparaging and discouraging Trump tweets and the noise coming from the adult day-care centre, aka the White House.

As for Pakistan, a couple of tweaks here and there can perhaps help. How about not being too dependent on the US to help resolve regional tensions? Why not show some spine and self-confidence and reach out to the Afghan, Indian and the Iranian leaders and offer plans for peace, a broad-based, open-ended initiation of a dialogue that could work towards salvation of trust? Why not urge different role-players to swallow a bit of their respective prides, come together and cooperate at various levels? If religious extremists are a problem, why not revitalise and rejuvenate intelligence outfits and make joint efforts to go after them?

Why let outside forces manipulate the lives of millions without their consent or knowledge when the Pakistanis, the Indians and the Afghans are smart enough to get their heads out of the sand to cooperate and steady up matters? Why not think beyond borders? This is the time when Pakistan can truly take the lead and work up a blueprint for regional settlement of disputes.

I remember back when Trump came up with his Afghan policy, my Pakistani friends were upset at him and the US for degrading and insulting Pakistan. I told them then and I say it now – stop looking for Uncle Sam’s hand-outs and helping hand; grow up, develop confidence and rapport regionally, and unleash the power of rapprochement. Stop re-litigating decade-old issues. Stop falling prey to the extortion of the outsiders!

This is Pakistan’s moment of truth to get itself out of the hole; perform the sacred peacemaker’s duty without sacrificing its core values and principles. Forgive me for being too optimistic but I’m not ashamed to plead for peace because if nothing is done now, the teeming millions of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan will keep playing with fire and burn the future of the generations to come. The underlying and objective truth is that an Afghan-Indo-Pak alliance can work wonders.

So my advice to Pakistan is, think! Think deeper than your heart. Take that leap of faith and make peace with your neighbours. The results may surprise us after all, and at least you tried.

Ahson Saeed Hasan

Ahson Saeed Hasan

The writer is a proud American, a peacenik who has traveled well over 80 countries and lived in four continents. He likes to share his experiences and reflect on the worldly surroundings. He tweets @tweetingacho (twitter.com/tweetingacho)

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

  • Rohan

    Pakistan should take action against extremists like haqqani and LeT etc. and not obsess about India.Plus build their own economy and not be a Chinese provinceRecommend

  • Ranvir Kapoor

    Afganistan – Pakistan and India, in peace or in war has one thing in commen and that is the Colour Green in their National FlagsRecommend

  • Feroz

    Outstanding suggestions coming from a well traveled visionary. The threat to South Asia comes from extremism, militancy and terrorism. No peace can ever come with neighbors without clear understanding about the root of the problem. A policy of non interference will be possible when proxies do not exist. Arguing about who is breeding them and who is using them is superfluous.Recommend

  • Srinivasulu Mekala

    First, remove religion from the state, religion is purely a personal and individual issue. The state that governs people should guarantee individual freedom to practice religion of their choice, but, the state itself should be without a religion. If this can happen in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, all these four countries can get federated into one entity, while remaining self governed sovereign states. The federal subjects should be well defined. This will change the History of the world for ever. But this will not happen, on the contrary, these countries may have more and more hostility among themselves.Recommend

  • Reddy

    ok,hold your horses…on what grounds exactly these 3 countries should form such alliance …pak hardly makes any sense ever nor we have financial interests in pak,in such case why would anybody waste their time or energy forming a superficial alliance which is of no use especially to india ….
    pakistan debt trap reached greek referendum times,only in this case there is no germany to bail them out….they are gonna devalue their currency which in turn raise the debt burden to shrinking economy to raise in prices…india got pak where it wanted,let it squirm and sell their gwadar port to chinese which is gonna happen anyway,shunning pak actually produced more results than actually engaging…if india tightens water even legally for two crop seasons pakistan’s inflation will make you forget valenzuela..we have lot of faith in china to finish the remaining jobRecommend

  • Rahul

    All these things are easy to say and have been said a million times before but the problem is Pakistan really believes it can grab Kashmir and install a government of its choice in Afghanistan. Pakistan government denies this is the policy but that is not believed by the world. The world thinks those setting this policy are not fully under the control of the government and the policy continues regardless of its failure.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    You sir need more understanding of the issue. First, it is not India , towing US line on Afghanistan. It is US which is towing Indian line on Afghanistan and Pakistan because they have learnt it hard way that Pakistan can not be a reliable ally no matter how many billions you give to them. Second, If two countries have same problem with the third country, what are the chances of both complaining countries are wrong? The biggest problem however is, despite knowing the root of the problem, Pakistan can not take actions against them as they are “strategic” assets. Now with Pakistan’s most powerful politician sent packing again for good, there is no chance of peace for foreseeable time between India and Pakistan.Recommend

  • rama

    Pakistan is hurting itself and its neighbors with its obsession on Kashmir and parity with India in all matters

    Pakistan has to understand that India is in different league compare to Pakistan and it has its on challengesRecommend

  • Sasindran Ayadakandiyil

    When asked about the possibility of an Afghan-Pak-India ‘alliance’, the GOD pronounced : Not in MY lifetime !Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    ” I told them then and I say it now – stop looking for Uncle Sam’s hand-outs and helping hand” and what may I ask you are living on, in USA. Its handouts. If your nation is so great what are you doing in USA- wel settled. If you are American, support your nation’s foreign policy.Recommend

  • Dhamdev

    A very sensible suggestion. Hope PAK leaders show the statesmanship.Recommend

  • brandy

    Seems like it’s impossible for a Pakistani to write an article without implying that the real cause of an dispute is the USA/Israel/boogeyman etc. USA has zero to do with the Pak/India split – has zero to do with the Afghan/Pak dispute. With that said – you want to improve your relationship with your neighbors – abandoned terrorism/strategic assets – just like the American’s suggested.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Pax America is what the author is pleading for, not realising that America has flourished for too long, nunc potens minus est. A new order is emerging which reflects not the opportunities but the values Nations represent,

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • x MinorRe

    The threat to South Asia comes from extremism, militancy and terrorism.

    populist slogans which are not real. There is a saying that what does not belong to other cannot grow together. The three countries are world apart and do not share common values. Besides peace emerges between people and not between Governments.

    Rex MinortRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    The peaceful world believe in the force of argument and not in the argument of force. It is no secret that pakistan was created for the muslim majorties of the former India whereas toays Bharat annexed Kashmir by using military force and is not letting muslim kashmiris exercise their rights for freedom.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Dr. Insaaniyat

    Fail to understand your obsession with Toilets .Funny how you link evrything to it..Is it something to do with your profession ..Grow up nowRecommend

  • Abid Mahmud Ansari.

    I agree with you rama! India is certainly in a different league than Pakistan. In , “incredible india”, 30 per cent of the World’s poorest of poor are indians, 60 per cent of indians still don’t have toilets in their homes, male and female indians defecate in the open, in this age of “incredible india”, 110 million indians don’t have access to electricity, in today’s “incredible india”, millions are born ,grow up stunted, and die on the foot paths of calcutta, bombay and Dehli! Yes, india is certainly in a different league!Recommend