Pakistan cannot be a strategic US ally: Experts

Ambassador (retd) Abdul Basit flanked by PTI lawmaker Dr. Shireen Mazari and Major General (retd) Hafiz Masroor Ahmed speak at a seminar, “United States’ South Asia Policy: Challenges for Pakistan,” here in Islamabad. (AN photo)
Updated 19 March 2018

Pakistan cannot be a strategic US ally: Experts

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan cannot be a strategic ally of the US as the latter’s interests in South Asia contradict Pakistan’s national interests, defense and security experts said on Monday at a seminar in Islamabad organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Pakistan’s relationship with the US is transactional, and Islamabad mistook it as strategic, said Abdul Basit, president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
US interests in South Asia “are totally in contradiction to the national interests of Pakistan,” and “we don’t have any foreign policy to deal with the challenges,” he added.
A lack of convergence of interests, and of economic cooperation, are the major contributing factors to the relationship’s poor history, he said.
“We need to formulate proactive diplomacy and behave as a mature nation instead of just reacting to international developments,” he said. “During the last four years, we have lost our space in US diplomacy.”
Dr. Shireen Mazari, a lawmaker with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and director general of the Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad, said Pakistan miscalculated its relationship with the US.
“Pakistan has been acting against its own interests in the region just to serve the US, and this should come to an end now,” she said.
The rise of India as a regional power, the isolation of Iran and the containment of China are the major US interests in South Asia, she added.
“Our national interests did not converge with the interests of the US,” Mazari said, adding that America can never be a natural strategic ally to Pakistan.
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said the relationship remains hostage to fundamental differences. “Pakistan needs to work out some fundamental changes in its foreign policy to normalize relations with the US,” he added.
Pakistan should capitalize on its geostrategic importance and redefine its relationship with the US and India for regional peace and stability, he said.
Hafiz Masroor Ahmed, vice president of the Center for Global and Strategic Studies, said Indian influence in Afghanistan poses a danger to Pakistan.
Islamabad should not be a hostage to US interests in the region, as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban were sabotaged by Washington, he added. “All our institutions should formulate a joint strategy to deal with the US,” he said.
Shakeel Ahmad, director of research uptake and business development at the SDPI, said the Trump administration “has brought a mix of change and continuity in the country’s foreign and security policies, including those in South Asia, and we need to understand that for a better relationship.”

Kashmir shuts down over India’s ‘muscular policy’

Updated 5 min 31 sec ago

Kashmir shuts down over India’s ‘muscular policy’

  • Activists angry over detention of rebel leader, suspension of border trade with Pakistan
  • Analysts said the arrest of activists was an attempt to sanitize the valley before polling day

NEW DELHI: Indian-controlled Kashmir observed a shutdown Tuesday over the alleged ill-treatment of a separatist leader and the suspension of border trade with Pakistan.

Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was taken into custody as part of a major crackdown following a February attack in Pulwama that killed dozens of Indian security personnel.

India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. The Pulwama attack brought both nations to the brink of war and tensions have been running high since.

Tuesday’s strike, called by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), saw the shutdown of all shops, businesses and traffic in protest at his detention and ill-treatment.

There is also anger that border trade with Pakistan has been suspended after the Indian government said that many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani administration, had links to militant organizations.

“News about Yasin Malik being seriously ill and being shifted to a hospital in New Delhi is very disturbing,” JRL member Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told Arab News.

“The people of Kashmir are concerned about his safety and well-being. It’s sad that even his family and his lawyer are not allowed to meet him. It’s the responsibility of the state, under whose detention he is in, to ensure his well-being. It is unfortunate that the state is dealing with the political issue of Kashmir with muscular and military policy alone. This will not yield anything apart from more anger and alienation on the ground. Look at the elections. The dismal turnout proves how disenchanted and alienated common masses feel today,” said Farooq, referring to the low turnout of Kashmir voters in India’s mammoth general election.

Analysts said the arrest of activists was an attempt to sanitize the valley before polling day.

India has had three phases in its election and participation in Kashmir has been poor, with some suggesting a turnout of 15 percent compared to 34 percent in 2014.

The JRL said the shutdown was also a condemnation of the alleged “ongoing aggression of central investigation agencies against Kashmiri leaders, activists, senior businessmen, trade union leaders, kith and kin of resistance leaders and other people belonging to different walks of life.”

Its statement called the closure of the national highway for two days a week “undemocratic ... and a gross human rights violation.”

The JRL slammed the suspension of border trade and said it was putting “the lives and economy of thousands into jeopardy.”

Srinagar-based rights activists Parvez Imroz said what was happening in Kashmir amounted to political and economic repression.

“By suspending trade at the border many lives are at stake,” he told Arab News. “People who have invested heavily in business are staring at an uncertain future. The government is not leaving any breathing space for the people of Kashmir.”

He added that, despite the Indian government’s tactics and firepower, people had not been motivated to cast their vote.

“Kashmir is not a democracy but an occupation. How can you expect people to respond when New Delhi behaves like a colonial power?”

But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said separatists had no right to question the government about the treatment of Kashmiri leaders.

“The separatist leaders never treated their own people well. They always tortured people who defied them. How come they expect good treatment at the hands of the Indian government?” Hina Bhat, a BJP leader in Srinagar, told Arab News.

She defended the ban on border trade, saying it could not continue unless the relationship between India and Pakistan normalized. She also put a positive spin on polling day, saying it was a success because it was “casualty-free.”

“No doubt people have some grudges and they are not happy with the previous government, but there is no need for disappointment as poll rates in other parts of the state have been good,” she added.