Wednesday, March 29, 2023
HomeOpinionAsking US to 'invest' more in Pakistan isn't the advice Biden should...

Asking US to ‘invest’ more in Pakistan isn’t the advice Biden should get from scholars

Why an Atlantic Council article must not act as the blueprint for Biden to deal with Pakistan.

Text Size:

Academics, unlike diplomats, don’t usually indulge in fantastic contortions to justify an argument or a policy direction. But there are exceptions. A recent article suggesting pointers for US President Joe Biden’s policy towards Pakistan by otherwise fine scholars was one such attempt. Among other suggestions, one was that US-Pakistan bilateral relations would be smoother since Washington was no longer ‘fixated’ on terrorism; this about a country that had its citizens involved in attacks in Paris just four months ago and celebrated the act of horror as heroism. Another argument in this article is that since the US continues to tether the stability of the region with Afghanistan, it should ‘invest’ more in Pakistan beyond security interests. That seems perilously close to blackmail, implying reward or revenge. There’s more. Some are analysed below, together with a few suggestions on just what the US policy on Pakistan should be based on Washington’s, India’s and most importantly, Pakistan’s interests.

But first, in the interest of full disclosure, India has no good things to say about Pakistan, but here’s the thing —both the US and India want a Pakistan that is reasonably stable, democratically ruled, ends all support to terrorists, and thereby stops its malign interference in Afghanistan. Most importantly, both countries would like a Pakistan that views the world through its own interests, rather than through a lens with Chinese characteristics. If this state of affairs were to come about, the sky would be the limit for Indian cooperation with Pakistan, and thereby stability in a region that deserves better.

Also read: ‘Anonymous’ author’s paper on US’ China strategy makes a buzz, has sharp message for India

Work with FATF, cut terror funding 

The first argument in the article rather brilliantly tries to turn Pakistan’s isolation in West Asia into a positive. It notes that Pakistan no longer cuts any ice in Saudi Arabia due to Riyadh’s refusal to team up with Pakistan against India, and the fact that with Israel opening up relations with important countries in the region, the old ‘Islamic card’ no longer has any meaning in foreign relations. But the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision last month to set free Omar Sheikh — the accused in the gruesome killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl —  is a rather poor start. The court later decided to send Omar to a government rest house while hearing an appeal filed by the Sindh government against its earlier verdict. The change of mind may also have come after feeling the US heat. Even more bizarre, the article calls this total miscarriage of justice a mere ‘bump’ on the road.

There’s no abandoning of Islamic foreign policy apparent in Imran Khan’s statements following the Paris attack, where he called for an end to Islamophobia, without speaking one word condemning the violence perpetrated by his own citizens. The Islamic card in foreign policy may be wilted, but Islamabad needs to address the Western phobia of the several dozen extremist groups in his own country who will fight to the teeth before allowing the US any safe access to the country. China is prudent enough to wall itself in, into complexes, including in Gwadar, despite being the ‘all weather friend’. If the US really wants to improve relations with Islamabad, the way to go is to hunker down with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) to completely cut off the funding of the so-called ‘charity’, ‘educational’ and ‘training’ institutes that are spread across the country. China will help. It doesn’t like them either.

Also read: In declassified US’ secret Indo-Pacific strategy, India is central, Pakistan has fallen out

Bypass China

A second argument in the article is even more meretricious. The shift away from Islamic foreign policy, which also means that neither the US nor China need Pakistan to intercede with the other Islamic states anymore, is seen rather mysteriously as ‘delinking’ Pakistan from India, in US and Chinese eyes. That may be true for the US, which now hopes Delhi will emerge as a bulwark against China. But Beijing is busy making new road linkages to Pakistan close to the Line of Control, readying to provide new Stealth fighters and has instituted war games just 200 km from the Indian border, all of it at a time of severely increased border tensions with India in eastern Ladakh. No, China hasn’t ‘delinked’ at all. Would the US want China to play ducks and drakes in Pakistan, with the Chinese army playing the band? Probably not. What the article suggests is that the US instead play competitor to Chinese investments in Pakistan. That’s a loser’s game. There’s an alternative. Simply bypass China. Read on.

Also read: Battered economy, brewing uprising in Pakistan means India can’t rule out adventurism in 2021

Don’t buy in to Pakistan’s geostrategic location

A third argument builds up the case for Pakistan’s ‘geostrategic location’ with the ‘bait’ that China has invested more than $56 billion in Pakistan with the intention of branching its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into West Asia, presumably an ‘area of interest’ to the US despite its reducing demand for oil imports. Actual Chinese ingress into Gwadar and Pasni among other areas is carefully left out by the authors, focusing instead on the hint that countries like Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey are ripe for Chinese picking.

That’s a bit of wishful thinking. Afghanistan is a very low priority for China, Iran is waiting to see what it can do to propitiate the Biden administration, and Turkey’s much-touted BRI project to link up to Xinjiang via Pakistan has yet to see any forward movement since 2009. The ITI Rail network travels 6,540 km, a sixth of the world’s circumference, to just reach Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s assiduous courting of Turkey – what with Turkish soap opera Ertugrul being all the rage – Ankara is more than capable of pulling its own weight vis-a-vis China or the US. Pakistan is really redundant. However, its real ‘geostrategic location’ is that it could become the trade route for all of South Asia. That means opening up trade routes with the main market, which is India, and thereby allowing goods to move freely across Central Asia, Russia, and even Europe. There’s a double whammy for Pakistan. Afghanistan will also stabilise if it becomes a highway for transcontinental trade. All of that requires money for infrastructure. Remember the Blue Dot Network? It aims to bring together trillions of dollars from government and private sources for infrastructure development based on transparency and environmental sustainability.

Also read: China can choose stability over spies. Or get shamed and singed in Afghanistan

Why Pakistan army must leave the India fixation 

It’s the final argument in the article that is of most interest. The authors argue that being stony broke and with its foreign policy overturned, “Pakistan is being forced to reevaluate how it engages its traditional partners on the defining feature of its foreign relations with many countries: competition with India”. But get realistic. That requires the Pakistan army to give up its fixation with India, with India in Afghanistan, and India pretty much anywhere else.

A change of heart will need the Indian leadership to not just offer a hand of friendship, but in tandem, hasten to set this in stone with economic and trade relationships that clearly benefit both. Any such institutional relationship will have to have the Pakistan army on board, a not so impossible task since it’s pretty much in charge of everything, including the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan top echelons, in turn, have to sit down and brainstorm as to whether their interests are best served by a sole reliance on China, or diversifying their sources of revenue to include all the countries in this region and beyond. That’s what policy should look like — with a courageous outreach to the world, rather than a begging bowl based on threats and wishful thinking.

The author is former director, National Security Council Secretariat. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. rolling on the floor laughing. no country is a saint when it comes to its own self interest and biases. Be it whit supremacy – islamic supremacy – hindu supremacy.

  2. The irony of this article is tbat this is not an arcticle but the words of an insecure Indian and his love for an insecure petty India that has spent billions since 2010 to spread misinformation against any positive spin on Pakistan.

    The USA played a big gamble to dump Pakistan and promote India. The policy to contain China blinkered the USA who completely forgot that if it were not for Pakistan, the USA hegemony in the region and Middle East would have faded a long time ago and the world would have been split between The Soviets and Anglo Atlantic Alliance. The demise of The Soviets would have been replaced with the demise of the USA in 1989.

    The USA presence in Asia and unabated influence in The Middle East is largely due to its long partnership with Pakistan a key ally during the cold war. The USA fundamentally misjudged how they must influence and remain integral in the Eurasian triangle and even in Zbigniew Brzezinskis book The Grand Chessboard which was the blueprint for The US Neoconservatives it described Pakistan as the “lynchpin” to a Eurasian strategy to retain its economic and military prestige for another 100 years. Unfortunately the Neoconservatives and in their think tank Project of New American Century (PNAC) looked to take a third world back water country called India with little to no historical ties with the region to become their new ally to contain China. Agreed, the Neocons had assessed Pakistans close proxomity to China but people can share the cake but with India it was to take the cake literally. India failed in Afghanistan, failed to dismember Pakistan through a multibillion dollar funded terror network our of Afghanistan and most of all India could not replace China as the 2nd largest economic power.

    Indian like a lap dog created devastating ripples across the region and was neither strategic nor tactical but was 100% Pakistan Centric.

    So today we see the rise of China and once again the emergence of Pakistan as kingmaker because of her historic, geographic, ethnic, cultural a d religous links across the region. The Obama presidency was a dark cloud for Pakistan and bloody with drone strikes killing thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians. Biden’s mantra under Obama to “Do More” and combined CIA and RAW nexus to malign, humiliate Pakistan at every forum did the worst conceivable damage to Pakistan more so than the neoconservatives.

    Today Pakistan is West Asia and is pivotal in an integrated prosperous central Asia thanks to the Chinese OBR and CPEC industrialisation programme the largest the world has ever since, exceeding the Marshall Plan post World War II.

    America can no longer bully Pakistan and India can no longer hide behind an American umbrella.

    Yes Pakistan is Kashmir centric because Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan. Kashmiris by virtue of ethnicity, culture, geography, language, history and religion is the kith and kin of each and every Pakistani. As the heir of the Indus Valley Civilisation and Mighty Mughal Empire it has co existed with the mighty Chinese Civilisation for thousands of years.

    The Atlantic Council laid out the correct course of action I call it “you can have a slice of the cake too” strategy as opposed to “taking the cake” or “whole cake”. Today alliances will need to built on economic blocks and progression not archaic puppet governments.
    The USA can gain much by investing in Pakistan and benefiting from the industrialisation and economic superiority of China. The days of a sole Superpower and Economic Power is fast coming to an end. New emerging powers and economies are alliances and fed up with American trail of blood death and destruction, shot gun diplomacy.

    China is the biggest economy and continues to grow. Pakistan has become the jugular vein of China and the single most important supply chain in the world.

    The USA should shift manufacturing to Pakistan both technologial and industrial including motor vehicles. Pakistani labour is cheap and strong. Pakistan is a youthful population and connects the world to China through what will be the most soohisticated modern supply chain. This connection begins in Gwader. Gwa is balochi to the Arabic Hawa or air. Der comes from the balochi word for doorway, the entrypoint into the Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor that takes you in the shortest possoble route to China.

    The USA and Europe has a great opportunity to invest in the banking, tourism, travel, technology and manufacturing industry in Pakistan. Pakistan is akin to Dubai 2 decades ago and is a large land mass and a larfe population with the worlds largest deep sea port.

    Invest in areas that US and Europe has a distinct advantage.

    Pakistan also is a treaure trove of rare minerals, gas, oil, gold, coal and iron but I think USA may have lost that boat to China.

    USA has only itself to blame for losing respecr in Pakistan and while the GW Bush Jnr presidency was a departure from the comd war diplomacy between the two allies they did continue to see Pakistan as strategic. The Obama presidency led by Biden was the wirse diplomacy between to key cold war allies that is now irreversible but new economic ties can be forged.

    Pakistan is a unique country the more you try to understand it, the more you realise its geopolitical importance. It is a blessed land that has seen every major empires walked through the landof the Indus Valley from Kashmir to Karachi or one day Gwader. You can not subdue this nation and its people under the barrel of a gun.

    To win back Pakistan it is high time the world recongise this hidden gem and wonder. Invest in Pakistan and reduce your manufacturing and access to a rich raw product market in Pakistan and its supply chain into mainland China. You will not be able ti subdue Pakistan or treat it as your inferior. You may “feel” like you have subdued the Pakistanis but lewrn from history, Pakistan does what is right for Pakistan.

    Pakistanis were ince loved by Americans and visa vi and Biden during Obama presidency destroyed that through the global false narrative and demonistaion of this great nation and good people.

    The reality is the USA actually needs to pay a debt of gratitude to this great nation.

  3. India has been at the center of terrorism in the region for decades. In 1971 it trained, supplied and financed the Mukhti Bahni terrorist organization in East Pakistan against Pakistan. In 1980s along with Soviet KGB and Aghan Khad, it planted bombs inside Pakistan and killed hundreds of innocent people. NOw it is committing terrorism in Balochistan.

  4. “Pakistan is really redundant”
    Perhaps like other Indians, Mr Tara Kartha is still unaware of recent Naval exercises in Karachi.
    In which, as many as 45 countries participated in the Aman exercise this year with their warships, aircrafts and special operation forces. This included all major world powers except India.

    So who is redundant and isolated now!

  5. US-Pakistan is a ***Bilateral*** relationship and there is no scope for a third party to interject – surely an Indian would understand this key principle repeated by Indians ad nauseam. Do you think Pakistan navy is feeling isolated?

  6. Yes, US is keeping a blind on India but they know that India supports over dozen terrorist groups form Afghanistan and some militant groups inside Pakistan.

  7. This policy is driven by Indian Americans who are ultra left and ultra white.

    Apologist for fundamental tribalism.

    These utopian vultures will be threat to India national security threat.

    India needs to speed up the lobbying with conservative Republicans and Democrats who hold significant sway on the various committees.

  8. Pakistan think tank is fixated on two things – kashmir and islam. but from what is seen on the social media the common man seems more enchanted with india. India’s policy towards pakistan should take advantage of this dochotomy.

  9. US always wants someone else to fight their war. Proxy war? Pakistan is the only one available now even if it is untrustworthy. It will stop body bags coming back to the US.

Comments are closed.