National interest should reign supreme

9 Jun


By Mohammad Jamil

In 1950s, Pakistan had joined defence pacts with the West, and the nation was told it was done in the best national interest. However, meaninglessness of the pacts became obvious during the wars with India in 1965 and 1971 when our allies became neutral. In 1979, Pakistan became a frontline state after Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, what it said on the request of Afghan Government, the then Pakistan’s government said it was in the national interest. After 9/11 events, joining the war on terror was also said to be in the national interest. If one dispassionately examines the above cases, they did not promote or advance national interests; rather the results were just the contrary. The term national interest connotes nation’s survival, territorial integrity and political independence.

Nevertheless, for a visionary leadership in a nation-state, the criterion is being unemotional and taking pragmatic decisions keeping in view the ground realities. However, nation’s very existence/survival often ranks at the top of all other interests. Indeed, for survival there is need for strong defence; and to achieve this objective stable and strong economy is an indispensable condition. In case of Pakistan, there are other factors that need to be kept in view while defining national interest. Pakistan was created on the basis of two-nation theory, and negation of this concept would mean striking at the very foundation of the state. Whereas, for hegemonic states national interest lies in coercing other nations, Pakistan seeks good relations with the neighbouring countries; however, other states should not get involved in acts that roil friendly relations.
National interest also lies in achieving self-reliance and internal reform in order to avoid foreign pressure of all sorts. It is unfortunate that Pakistan a resource-rich country has been brought to the present pass due to ineptness of a pack of incompetent leaders. It was because of dependency syndrome that Pakistan was coerced into joining the war on terror and suffered in men and treasure. When Irani border guards were killed by the terrorists, Iran warned that in case Pakistan failed to rein in terrorists, Iran would cross over to Pakistan to take action against them. Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had also issued a similar warning, as if Pakistan was a banana republic. Today, national political power in the state is shared between multiple power centres and is passing through a defining phase.
The military, judiciary, national and provincial governments, political parties, media and civil society are all stakeholders, and have to work in unison to define and protect national interest. Of course, military top brass have expertise in security-related matters, as during their long tenures spanning over three decades they have first-hand knowledge about security paradigm, which is often related to foreign policy paradigm. Against this backdrop, the government has to take decisions on the basis of their input. Finally, there is need to end proxy wars in Pakistan that engender sectarian conflict and terrorism. Former director general of Inter Services Intelligence Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha (R), during in-camera briefing to Parliament had told that some Pakistani clerics were receiving funds from Saudi Arabia.
Iran on its part has been trying to counter by supporting its own proxies inside Pakistan. Tehran and Riyadh are embarking on a very dangerous course, and both countries are equally responsible for stoking the sectarian fires in Pakistan and elsewhere. Some commentriat, analysts and politicians present doomsday scenario and express the fear that in case Pakistan would not meet Saudi demands the future of over a million Pakistani workers would be in jeopardy. They should understand that decision to join a war on friendly country’s request is not taken on the basis of how much that country has invested and how many workers are employed there.
After a unanimous resolution adopted by joint session of Parliament to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Muhammad Gargash has said: “Pakistan was required to show a clear stand in favour of its strategic relations with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, as contradictory and ambiguous views on this serious matter will have to pay a price.” It has to be mentioned that Parliament’s resolution has backed the government’s resolve to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory in event of threat to its territorial integrity. Since Saudi Arabia has not been attacked, Pakistan cannot join the coalition against Yemeni Houthis. Meanwhile, Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Jarwan, Chairman of the Arab Parliament in the Arab league expressed his disappointment with the Pakistani parliament’s decision to remain neutral in the Yemen conflict.
If one considers these statements as a note of warning, then it has to be mentioned that Pakistani expatriates are working hard to earn their living and not receiving dole. As regards foreign investment in Pakistan, they invest in Pakistan for profit and not for the love of Pakistan. In 2006, Emirates Telecommunication Corporation (Etisalat) acquired a 26 per cent stake in Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) in a deal for $2.6 billion. Nowhere in the world is management of the company or corporation given to 26 per cent share-holder. We are grateful for Saudis’ help after Pakistan detonated nuclear devices in May 1998. But Pakistan must have given something in return, as there is no free lunch in international relations.
Iran had also helped Pakistan during wars with India in 1965 and 1971; but after 1979 revolution in Iran late Ayatollah Khomeini had reportedly said that shias were being persecuted in Pakistan. And that people of Pakistan should rise to get rid of military dictatorship. The question is if Iran and Saudi Arabia can take decisions on the basis of its national interest, why Pakistan can’t do it? For decades, Saudi Arabia had supported Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir; but now it has taken the position that Kashmir dispute should be resolved through bilateral negotiations. Pakistan never complained about kingdom’s change in stance. It is hoped that Saudi Arabia would understand that Pakistan faces threats to its internal and external security, and cannot show laxity on eastern or western borders by diverting troops to Saudi Arabia.

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