Reopening NATO supply: Yes or No? - By Mr. Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi
Reopening NATO supply: Yes or No?
By Mr. Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi
NATO supply routes through Pakistan were blocked after the Salala incident in November 2011 in which NATO troops were involved in killing of 26 Pakistani soldiers and destruction of two border posts. A parliamentary committee on national security (PCNS) was given the responsibility to conduct a strategic review to reform the terms of engagement with USA. The foremost question in front of the committee was to consider how the presence of foreign forces, in a neighboring country, has impacted the social, economic and security situation of Pakistan? America has signed an MOU with Afghan government to allow force presence for another 10 years beyond 2014. Which means the next most critical question is how will it impact balance of power in the region?
Leaders are responsible to inform and educate the masses about an important policy decision to create a national consensus. Various security analysts, ex-servicemen and politicians have been projecting a view that America has lost the war in Afghanistan and are in a rush to leave. It is far from reality. A look at the US policy discussions and facts on the ground make it abundantly clear that NATO forces will remain in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. Going forward the only change will be in the make up of American forces from conventional army to special operations, estimated around 25000 to 30000, including an intelligence apparatus.
The other serious concern is the lack of unity in formulation of our foreign policy. Opposition leaders were part of the deliberation process of the draft but are now crying foul about it. If they disagreed with the recommendations then they should have raised their objections during the committee meetings and ascertained that it is not released until a consensus is reached. Two of the PML (N) leaders are signatory of the draft but still the leader of opposition in national assembly is objecting as if they had nothing got to do with it. Similarly, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI F was member of the PCNS committee but did not use that appropriate forum to provide his insight and wisdom in formulating the terms. He is now using it to further his party’s political interest.
A country bordering with a neighbor engaged in an active war experiences serious deterioration to its macro-economic outlook. Some of these affects are loss of export markets due to supply uncertainty; increased cost of insurance; social disruption affecting domestic markets; reduced foreign direct investment; increased cost of maintaining law and order; emergence of an undocumented economy producing inflation and higher frequency of terrorist attacks on the society. It is understood that recouping these macro-economic costs will be part of any strategic options prepared by the affected nation. On the other hand micro-economic benefits are discussed and negotiated at the time of signing of subsequent agreements.
In other words fees, compensation and economic advantages are a by-product of a strategic review. It is understood that economic benefit is sought from a situation but it does not dictate the strategic position. The PCNS draft focuses too much on micro-economic compensation presenting Pakistan as a renter state that is willing to sell itself for a right fee. The correct approach should have been to include macro-economic gains in the form of fast track approval of free trade agreement; social sector development by allowing write off of existing loans, access to foreign direct investment and no interest loans for infrastructure development. This is apart from any fees and taxes negotiated for transit rights agreements.
The draft recommendation promotes “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” resolution of the conflict. This raises many questions. First which Afghan are we talking about the one sitting in Kabul and represented by President Karzai or the one that controls vast geographic area represented by Afghan Taliban engaged in negotiation with America. Technically it should be Kabul which means that we have given control of our foreign policy position in the hands of Afghanistan. If Afghan government blames Pakistan to be the source of its internal conflict, as they have done it on numerous occasions in the past, then we have to accept it. Afghan government is protected by US forces which means that they have influence on the approach adopted by Kabul including providing legitimacy to Indian role in Afghanistan. The correct approach would have been that Pakistan desires peace and stability in the region. As a country with a long border and historic ties with Afghan people it is important that a regional frame work is developed in which Pakistan plays its justified role as a country most affected by the continuation of conflict. Any platform that leaves out Pakistan should not be acceptable in the interest of regional stability.
The PCNS was mandated to perform a strategic review of bilateral relations with US. But the draft goes beyond this mandate and includes relationship with other important countries like China, Russia and Iran. Each bilateral relationship has to be developed based on unique cultural, economic, social and security conditions prevailing between the countries. Subjecting these relations to terms of engagement with USA is subjugating it to their indirect influence on it. Articles of PCNS recommendations pertaining to other countries should be taken out of it.
Many analysts in Pakistan are predicting that US influence is waning in the world which may be true but not evident for next two decades. US does feel pressure from a bad economy, high budget deficit, reduction in defense budget and declining morale of its armed forces resulting from long exposure to war. US policy makers realize the extent of these pressures and are actively seeking remedies. It is only a matter of time before they find a common ground which will be sooner than later as many expect. America is pressuring NATO countries UK, France and Germany to assume security responsibilities in Europe. This will enable her to redeploy some of these forces in Pacific, Middle East and South Asia without creating additional strain on its military strength.
US-Pakistan is an important relationship but it is stuck at transactional level because of short sightedness of our planners.
The author is former President of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce-USA and member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. The views expressed are personal and not official party position. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi