The visit of the president to the Russian Republic could prove to be a turning point in our approach towards our national economic and foreign policy. The beginning of looking elsewhere for dignified friendship and mutual help seems to have dawned.
By Amjad Ayub Mirza
The target killing of Osama bin Laden, Commander-in-Chief of al Qaeda forces, has exposed the highhanded approach of the American government when it comes to sensitive military and foreign policy decisions. No prior consultation with the Pakistani government or military high command was undertaken. Despite the accusations levelled at the Pakistani intelligence agencies regarding reluctance in intelligence-sharing with the CIA, no intelligence-sharing regarding the Abbottabad episode in the war against terror was considered necessary by the Americans.
The rude manner in which the US helicopters barged into our internationally recognised borders in the early hours of May 2 shows not only the vulnerability of our border security system but also manifests the fact that if the Israeli, American and Indian military decide to orchestrate a surgical strike on our strategic assets, we have little or no counter defence system to defeat any such challenge. Hence the question raised in every Pakistani’s mind is: are we totally defenceless?
The aim of countering the threat to Pakistan from our eastern border as well as economic assistance has been at the core of our foreign policy road map since the first Pak-India war of 1948. Our assistance offered to the US during the long-drawn Cold War period in the hope of receiving economic assistance that would lead Pakistan to economic prosperity and self-sufficiency has alas proved to be a terrible miscalculation.
Most of what is given to Pakistan in monetary assistance is wasted paying for debt servicing and military expeditions against the Taliban and al Qaeda. The whole country suffers from long spells of power cuts called load shedding, we still lack generous access to markets in the US and Europe and the dream of becoming the powerhouse of the east is in tatters. Under the present circumstances, the recent visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Moscow is of the same significance as the visit of Mr Liaquat Ali Khan to the US in 1951.
The meetings held between the Russian and Pakistani counterparts at the Black Sea resort of Sochi are of great historical significance. The shameful role of Pakistan in destabilising the sovereign government of Afghanistan by allowing the Afghan rebels and the CIA to use our soil as a launching-pad for insurgency inside Afghanistan was an act of an unrepresentative military dictatorship. Let us not forget that it was the elected prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who initiated better ties with the Soviet Union and acquired the great steel mill of Karachi from Moscow. Today, in times of suspicion and uncertainty, it is yet again an elected president of Pakistan who is initiating cooperation with a vision of helping Pakistan to achieve economic salvation. Inviting Russia to participate in a proposed natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan is a great diplomatic gesture as well as an intelligent proposal that would generate huge revenue and employment for our country.
The recent visit of President Zardari can also be viewed in the light of the Sochi Economic Summit held last year in which Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Russia and Pakistan agreed to pursue joint economic projects to help bring economic stability to our countries. Perhaps the time has come to enter into joint defence pacts as well. This would require a sensible resolution of the Kashmir conflict that would be acceptable to all concerned parties as well as approved by the UN. The People’s Republic of China and Russia can play a leading role in resolving this matter, thus reducing our foreign policy dependence on the US.
The targeted killing of the top terrorist in Abbottabad should be an eye-opener for all concerned actors of the state. It is time to shift away from the US and other western foreign powers and move on.
The writer is a freelancer based in London. He also carries the portfolio of PPP UK Media Cell Coordinator. He can be reached at email@example.com