Running with the hare and hunting with hounds?

Running with the hare and hunting with hounds?

The US and West are worried about the Pakistani government’s stability and nukes falling into the wrong hands

The US media is littered with gazillions of essays and editorials excoriating Pakistan and its deep state for their double game, duplicity and recommending some forms of sanctions against it.

Dr Christine Fair, a leading South Asia security expert from Georgetown University has famously coined the phrase “arsonist turned firefighter” to describe Pakistan who is largely responsible for sinking the most advanced armed forces in Afghanistan and for being a toxic and disruptive neighbour setting various fires in South Asia for decades. Now Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan is even doubling down by audaciously calling President Biden and Secretary Blinken clueless, accusing the world of being ungrateful, employing double standards and demanding the international community to recognise and incentivise the Taliban.

This is a classic case of cognitive dissonance, wherein Pakistan’s perception of itself as a valued geostrategic player on the world stage is at serious odds with its well-documented practise of sheltering extremists and allowing its territory to become an epicentre of cross border terrorism.

So, how and why has Pakistan been able to hoodwink and bamboozle the West, especially the US, and be able to monetise its firefighter role while being an arsonist openly? Barring the scathing President Trump tweets of 2018, the US remains engaged with Pakistan, viewing it as a necessary evil, hoping and praying that Pakistan will abandon its policy of state-sponsored terrorism and become a genuine and practical security partner in post-American Afghanistan. The following factors play a significant role in US ambivalence and subdued criticism towards Pakistan:

Stability of nuclear weapons: The US and West are worried about the Pakistani government’s stability and nukes falling into the wrong hands. They also want to keep a lid on Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear proliferation activities.

AfghanistanNow a hot opportunity for Pakistan. The West has largely bought into the Pakistani narrative that only it is an effective advocate, conduit and broker all in one, with the Taliban. After the US departure from Afghanistan, Pakistan has gone on a diplomatic offensive through its NSA Moeed Yusuf urging the world to support the Taliban to avoid a revival of terrorism and extremism in the near future.

Gullible thinktanks: Pakistan has cultivated an excellent relationship with analysts at the various US think tanks who receive access and hospitality from jihadi generals and who in return inadvertently become Pindi parrots peddling Pakistani narratives and talking points.

Strong lobbying: Pakistan is very effective in doling out lucrative lobbying contracts to well-connected DC insiders. Since assuming power, Imran Khan has increased their lobbying budget to advance the Pakistani agenda with US lawmakers.  

Russia ties: Russia is losing momentum with India and has made inroads into Pakistan peddling weapons and energy projects. Pakistan views Russia as a good backup geostrategic option in case relations sour with the US. Both view their newfound relations as a countermeasure to deepening India US relations.

China card: China is a super reliable ally and military partner of Pakistan. With the QUAD gaining steam to counter China, Pakistan is becoming a cornerstone of China’s geopolitical games.

However, the Taliban is back to their old tricks of oppressing the Afghan people, and will soon start accommodating the reconstituted Al Qaeda elements due to ba’ayah. On the other side of the Durand line, Pakistan is unlikely to change its geostrategic calculation of giving succour and sanctuary to extremists and thereby retaining its toxic role to stay relevant. Therefore interests will diverge soon and US relations with Pakistan will worsen in the future. It is time to recognize that the new mantra of “relentless diplomacy” will neither help contain this rogue nor bargain with this devil. To use President Biden’s favourite words, it is time to stop the malarkey and end the shenanigans emanating from the Rawalpindi jihadi military complex — once for all.

(The writer is a US-based commentator.)

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