What Are Some Options For Pakistan?

| Updated: 08 October, 2022 12:39 pm IST

An internalisation of the first constant: Pakistan has mutated into an entity that cannot bank on long-term strategies – is important at the beginning.

Pakistan could have sailed long-term, back in the 1950s, but not anymore. Its character has not just shaped, but has ossified its destiny. So, the Pakistan of today has only short and very short-term options.

These options depend on parties that are interested in ‘investing’ in Pakistan. None of these so-called investments focuses on building the country or helping it grow. There are two reasons behind this: One, Pakistan’s behaviour over the years has more than amplified its disinterest to impact the nation’s grassroots positively through globally accepted parameters like health, education, employment, infrastructure, or industrial growth. And two, human civilization has moved away from that point where an economically powerful nation took to building a weaker one (for whatever reasons). Since these two conditions find mutual support in a place like Pakistan, there would only be agenda-based parties – both internal and external.

That said, let us take a look at the possible options for Pakistan.

Option One: China. For China, there are two reasons. The first one is access to Gwadar. I wrote briefly about the importance of Gwadar in an earlier The New Indian article; about how it reduces time, distance, and cost for maritime cargo transport for China. Considering that as prime, the entire exercise of CPEC as an extension of BRI begins making sense, and all the events surrounding it – from security issues to international politics and conflicts over Gilgit-Baltistan, or recent tussle owing to Chinese loans and payment deadlines on Pakistan – all link themselves to this primary vision of China: a warm-water port that is a mega cost-saver, one that bypasses the Strait of Malacca. The Indo-Pak conflict is a bonus for China because of Indo-Chinese relations. But were that to improve tomorrow and the Strait of Malacca to stop being a reason for worry, China would still want to maximize on Gwadar.

ALSO READ: Nord Stream Blasts Opens Up Several Fault Lines Within The West

The next reason why China wants to put in that kind of money is to keep the West out of its neighbourhood. The usage of the phrase ‘debt trap diplomacy’ as an alternative to China’s foreign policy is commonplace these days. China plays this game to expand its area of influence and keep the West out wherever it is possible. And that would include not just Central Asia, but Pakistan too.

Incidentally, that brings us to the next interested investor or Option Two for Pakistan: the USA.

For the USA, as leader of the West, Central Asia has always been crucial geography. They wanted to access and control, especially after the USSR folded in the 90s. 1990-2010 was a phase of highly-visible travel and trade diplomacy, different treaties and projects – some, as important as the Trans-Afghan Pipeline. But over time (and under compulsions), their approach changed. Buoyed by the rise of Islamism, especially post-2000 and under the guise of the Global War On Terror (GWOT), the destabilisation of territories closer to potential regional powerhouses began making more sense. Afghanistan was already a convenient launch pad. So, even though there have never been direct links established between the West and ISIS (except the ISIS selling Syrian oil to Turkey, or getting treated in Israeli hospitals), the ISIS terrorists began mysteriously popping up in parts of Central Asia after 2016. And Pakistan would have ceased to be of great importance, but the Taliban chased the Americans out in 2021. As a result, it is back to Pakistan again.

There are several advantages. Pakistan is a known devil; an old partner in using Islamism as a cat-paw. The Pakistan Army and ISI have had an extremely successful association with the USA throughout the Cold War, the Afghan Jihad, and even afterwards. Pakistan of today is an important source of intelligence on China. Pakistan and the Taliban do not enjoy a good relationship these days. And now the US has a brilliant window of opportunity because the Pakistan Army – which is always on the lookout for easy money and is presently cash-strapped following their near economic collapse – is ready to do America’s bidding once again. For the right price, it can again become a fulcrum for the US agenda of destabilisation: whether it is Iran, China, Russia, or India.

Option Three: This is a mix of comparatively lightweight investors. Like the Turkey-Qatar duo – two Islamic states are on the lookout for human resources originating from places like Pakistan. For an ummah that survives on the continual expansion of population and territories, a fundamentalist population like the average Pakistani is always a blessing. And the Turkey-Qatar duo wants to assume the leadership of the ummah. But they are not heavyweight contenders like China or the USA. While China eyes real estate and the USA eyes the institutions, Turkey-Qatar is eyeing the average madrassa-bred Pakistani. (Relevant read: here)

Among other minor investors like UAE or KSA: their investments in Pakistan these days are more out of peer pressure. In their hearts, Riyadh or Abu Dhabi realise that the money is not coming back. Russia too was interested to invest in Pakistan, perhaps more due to China’s push than anything else; though we all realise now that the Kremlin might reconsider its decision after Pakistani arms have been spotted among Ukrainian soldiers.

So, these are some of the options for Pakistan. None of them presents us with a decent picture of the future of Pakistan, its people, and its neighbours. Would Pakistan continue on its path to destabilising the neighbourhood by using its own population as cannon fodder? Would the landlords of Pakistan (Army) allow access to the territory and population for a few million dollars and retirement villas in UAE or the UK? Or would Pakistan surprise all of us and decide in favour of a metamorphosis?

Given that there are no long-term games for Pakistan because there is no demand for them among the interested parties, I wouldn’t bet on that last option.

[Arindam Mukherjee is a geopolitical analyst and the author of JourneyDog Tales, The Puppeteer, and A Matter of Greed.]

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Also Read Story

J&K Police close to busting terror network aiding infiltration

PM Modi’s selfie moments shine at Srinagar Yoga Day event

J&K’s Yoga enthusiasm will be immortalized in minds: PM Modi

Ministry of Textiles approves startups to boost innovation and sustainability