|Pakistan's foreign policy orientation -- VII
Daily: Daily Times
Old habits die hard, so are old longings such as Pakistan’s sovereignty should be
respected. The day Pakistan allowed the US to fly its missions from its territory to spy on
the former Soviet Union, Pakistan actually decided to tolerate the breach of its own
sovereignty one day.
Sometime after July 1956, Pakistan allowed its territory to be used to violate the sovereignty
of the Soviet Union, till May 1, 1960, when the U-2 spy plane of the US intelligence agency
was shot down by the Soviet Union in its airspace. This was the first major peace time
offensive launched from Pakistan’s territory. Interestingly, on May 2, 2011, Pakistan
experienced the desecration of its sovereignty by US Marines who conducted a clandestine
operation against Osama bin Laden residing in hiding in Abbottabad. This was the latest
major peace time offensive experienced by Pakistan seeing its sovereignty breached.
Sovereignty means a state of affairs in which a political government is independent in
taking its actions within a specified (or given) political territory. This state of affairs has also
to be recognized by other states. In this way, sovereignty derives the strength of legitimacy
not only from its internal affairs (i.e. people) but also from international affairs (i.e. fellow
sovereign states). When a state or country is sovereign in its actions both internally and
externally, that state is called an independent state or country. In the case of Pakistan,
another concept also sounds relevant. That is, protectorate, a state which is protected and
controlled by another state. Here, protection is a pre-requisite to control, whether lax or
strict. The main constituent of protection is offering help in the areas of finance and
defence. Interestingly, during the Cold War (1947-1991), one of the major countries from
which Pakistan got both financial help and military aid was the US.
The tyranny haunting Pakistan now is that the post-Cold War era is dictating Pakistan the
concept of sovereignty different from what Pakistan learnt during the Cold War, which
offered Pakistan the feeling of a de facto protectorate of the US. In this sense of protection,
Pakistan viewed its sovereignty, as the sense of protectorate suited to the obsequious set
of mind colonially inherited by Pakistan and the sense of insecurity ravaging it after
partition. Sovereignty was seen in this sense of being protected. Pakistan valued the
consequent protector-protected relationship embodied in various aid programs and
defence alliances. The sense of being a de facto protectorate went so well with Pakistan
that, in the post-Cold War era, when Pakistan got de-protected (or unyoked), Pakistan is
still clinging tenaciously to the status of a protected state which is looking for a protecting
As Richard Haass argues in his book, A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the
Crisis of the Old Order, published in 2017, if states are categorized into strong, weak and
failed states, Pakistan may be subsumed under the weak-state category. A failed state
could be that wherein the government authority breakdowns to open space for chaos
caused by the actions of local gangs and armed militias in an effort to take control over
their preferred area of monopoly. Somalia, Haiti, and Rwanda experiencing civil strife since
the 1990s are perfect examples. However, a weak state is the one wherein the government
authority exists preventing chaos along with the complementary military power defending
borders, but it remains handicapped in capacity by enduring the existence of uncontrolled
socio-political spaces for chaos and ungoverned territories within its borders for revolt.
Pakistan’s history is replete with examples when religious sentiment of people was exploited
to stir them up creating socio-political space. Both Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) in September
1988 and Muttahida Majlise Amal (MMA) in September 2001 were perfect examples;
incidentally, both were military sponsored parties. Nevertheless, owing to the repetition of
the practice, this kind of space is now yearning for perpetuity or at least it is resisting
absolute closure. In the context of ungoverned territories, tribal areas of Pakistan offer a
best example. Since partition, these areas remained out of the writ of the government under
the pretext that the people residing these areas wanted to live by their own cultural norm.
However, over the years, these areas became a hotbed of proclaimed offenders, drug
peddlers and arms smugglers, right under the nose of the government, even to the instant
knowledge of intelligence agencies. The next refugees to these areas were Islamic militants
of various hues, both local and international.
The areas which were left unattended deliberately in the name of respecting ethno-cultural
diversity turned into a stranglehold of chaos inviting all types of breach of the sovereignty
of the state. This is how the inviting factors to breach Pakistan’s sovereignty are more in
number and stronger in intensity than those of the prohibitory ones. Drone strikes since
2004 and subsequent hot pursuits by the foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan are the
best examples, though these were still minor breaches of sovereignty. Within the context of
minor breach, the only exception to the principle of an ungoverned territory inviting
sovereignty breach is the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in Baluchistan by
a drone strike in May 2016.
On the eastern border, although the attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001 was
carried out by five militants belonging allegedly to Lashkare Tayyaba (LeT) and Jaishe
Mohammad (JeM), it led to Pak-India military stand-off in 2001-2002. The immediate effect
of the crisis was India’s realizing the failure of the Sundarji Doctrine (1981-2004) to confront
Pakistan. In 2004, India popularized its Cold Start Doctrine which is pro-breach in details.
On January 1 this year, the tweet by US President Donald Trump bespoke the kind of
opinion about Pakistan pervading Washington DC. Trump declared Pakistan a perfidious
ally, which was defying the past de facto protected status and its trappings, but was prone
to be tweaked to listen to the US demands, whereas Pakistan has been searching for
sovereign equality in Pak-US bilateral relations.
Pakistan thinks that coming out of the US fold betokens Pakistan’s independent status.
Interestingly, at the same time, Pakistan is found yearning for donning some other fold
(provided by either China or Russia) assuming that the subsequent fold would not make
Pakistan compromise its sovereignty. Certainly, Pakistan’s adherence to the status of a
protected state is still looking for a protecting state.
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