Plain speaking

Defence Minister (DM) Khurram Dastagir Khan let rip on Monday 15th January and called for a “ruthlessly candid dialogue” with Washington in order to remove all types of “misconceptions and misunderstandings.” He should be careful what he wishes for because that is a demand that can as easily come the other way, and the chances of either side being publicly ‘candid and ruthless’ are remote. The DM was addressing the National Assembly regarding the foreign policy of the government and the security situation in the country.

There followed a debate — unusual in itself — around who determined foreign policy with the House of the view that it should emanate from Parliament itself and that there was no role for other organisations or states. At issue was whether or not America was attempting to influence Pakistani perceptions that India presented no threat and that we should alter our strategic stance accordingly. Coming within two days of the Indian army chief making some decidedly belligerent statements there is every reason for Pakistan to hold its own position, and that any idea that India harbours much other than ill-intent towards Pakistan borders on the barking mad.

Further, the US is not above trying to hang Pakistan out to dry for its own military and foreign policy failures in Afghanistan — failures that long predate the current shambles by many years. To be sure Pakistan has made mistakes and more than once chose to ride the wrong horse but in terms of foreign policy the state is coming head to wind and realigning along the China-Russia axis which produces a frisson of unease in the American camp. If there ever is to be a ruthlessly candid dialogue it is likely to be of little benefit to either side and exacerbate already fractious relationships. America and Pakistan are still talking over the back channels as both sides have been keen to emphasis. Let’s keep it that way.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2018.

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