|Pakistan's foreign policy orientation -- V
Daily: Daily Times
It was Mother Nature against which a state was formed to protect its citizens. Another state
replacing Nature led to the emergence of an interstate prototype – friendly or unfriendly –
in the world. This is the point where Niccolo Machiavelli made his mark by describing
interstate relations driven by national interest. Every state was out to set its own ambitions
and objectives to achieve under the guise of national interest. Consequently, the realist
school of thought emerged to rationalize even war under the same ruse.
Amongst the given shades of imprudence, the worst is labelling expediency as national
interest. Pakistan has been a victim of this (mal)practice couched in the term military
alliances. When Pakistan signed its first Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement with the US
in May 1954, its history of military alliances ensued. For instance, Pakistan had to join
South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) in September 1954 and then Central
Treaty Organization (CENTO) in September 1955 to contain Communism, despite the fact
that there was no immediate and direct threat of Communism to Pakistan, even to East
Pakistan. Interestingly, before promulgating its first constitution, Pakistan had joined the
SEATO and CENTO projecting anti-Soviet Union objectives, and not anti-India objectives.
Both diplomats and generals failed to see that the Truman doctrine to contain Communism
was fully functional in Europe, and that Pakistan’s defence agreement with the US would not
let Pakistan escape from a broader duty.
Both pacts insidiously affected the course of nation building and the mode of state building
in Pakistan, which was passing through its nascent stage. Nation building gravitated
overwhelmingly towards religion (justifying pan-Islamism to offset Communism) and state
building became tremendously centralized (justifying a strong central authority to mute
dissenting voices). The dream of practicing democracy and upholding constitution was
frustrated in the name of national interest sprouting from blatant lies. The pacts opened the
space for military-to-military alliances, thereby strengthening the military. In their wake, the
case of Pakistan turned interesting. Instead of Pakistan describing its national interest, it
became the other way round: National interest started describing Pakistan. Nevertheless,
by joining the pacts the veiled goals Pakistan wanted to achieve were to get financial aid to
run the country and obtain military hardware to counter India. This is how national
diplomatic and defence realms got imbued with hypocrisy, which is now an indispensable
part of national narrative, both domestic and foreign. Quintessentially, Pakistan is still
struggling with the duo: running the country and countering India.
Even if it were assumed that the limited war with India on Kashmir in 1947-48 enforced
Pakistan to look for help external to South Asia, a fact cannot be ignored that the six-year
period from 1948 to 1954 failed to witness a war. Instead of extending the period of peace,
Pakistan encumbered itself with a new responsibility for containing Communism in the
region. Interestingly, Pakistan justified both pacts in the name of its geo-strategic position.
Nevertheless, to the West, the pacts exposed Pakistan’s bent for obtaining financial aid and
making military alliances. Pakistan overlooked the fact that the countries (such as the US
and the UK, which had fought two world wars) offering Pakistan the pact were more
experienced in conflict and diplomacy. Pakistan was an inchoate partner which fell quickly
into the category of a stooge. The disparity discredited Pakistan. In the wake of the test of
Soviet’s Hydrogen bomb in November 1955, the US was allowed to use Pakistan’s military
base near Peshawar to fly its U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union from sometime after July
1956 to early May 1960, till the plane was shot down en route to Bodo, Norway. Animosity
against India transported Pakistan direct into the thick of the Cold War (1947-1991), which
swelled Pakistan’s sense of insecurity several times. The solution became another poison
The proverbial tail of national interest became stronger to wag Pakistan which learnt the
methods of maneuvering internal situations to constitute a consensus. For instance, the
military kept on stepping into the civilian domain under the ruse of national interest.
Secondly, intelligence agencies enforced peremptory ways to bring citizens in line with the
goals set by their parent institutions. That is, the one-man rule and all-man obey took
precedence over all else.
Interestingly, the consciousness about geo-strategic location bequeathed by the pacts has
not yet deserted Pakistan, which is still keen to enter into military alliances. For instance, in
2017, a feeling of deja vu visited Pakistan when it joined the 41-nation Islamic Military
Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT). The course adopted was both interesting and
alarming. Interesting in the sense that Pakistan’s retired Chief of Army Staff (COAS)
General Raheel Sharif was made the head of the alliance by Saudi Arabia. In April 2017,
the general obtained an NoC to join the position for three years in his private capacity.
However, afterwards, the incumbent COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited certain
countries of the Middle East (ME) under a new phenomenon called military diplomacy and
supported the alliance. The matter is alarming in the sense that like while joining SEATO
and CENTO this time the matter was also not discussed in the parliament, despite the fact
that both civilian leaders and military officials attended the alliance’s Conference of Minister
of Defence Council in Riyadh in November 2017. In December, the COAS briefed the
Senate on the military diplomacy carried out by the army in the ME. Various opinion pieces
have appeared justifying Pakistan’s joining the alliance just as the opinion pieces appeared
when Pakistan joined the SEATO and CENTO.
Pakistan is back to square one. When national interest is defined and its itinerary is
decided outside the parliament, the whole such exercise becomes illegal and
unconstitutional. Consequently, the citizens feel disaffected by such decisions and get
disassociated from the state, as they think that the army is not their representative and that
the repercussions of such decisions have to be borne by them unwillingly. The Senate
briefing is not a substitute for the approval of the parliament, which is the sole originator
and exegetist of national interest.
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