The advent of 2K18 did not prove a good omen for policymakers and think tanks in Islamabad. The Trump administration has again pressurized Islamabad to take concrete steps in its war on terror efforts. Though the response from the concerned stakeholders to Trump’s statement has been measured and moderate, there exists another potential threat as well that needs to be addressed too. As Sun Tzu’ once said, “A battle is won before it’s fought”. So, policymakers must create a hypothetical picture of what may come to them in future. In other words ,imagine a worst case scenario where Pakistan has been put under intense blockade coupled with economic and diplomatic sanctions, and to add insult to injury, our all-weather friends such as KSA and China have also stopped extending any type of assistance at any level. For how long can our state survive this hostile siege? Perhaps this is not a question worth asking, since the majority of us know the exact answer. The real question, however, is, what are our contingency plans to counter any such potential move from the US?
One of the strategies can be moving forward with aid from KSA. However ,KSA will not risk annoying US by helping the cornered state of Pakistan. Since KSA is the biggest buyer of US arms in the world and also US’ helping hand is necessary to counter the emerging Iranian threat, which has been further enhanced by the recent outbreak of protests across the region to challenge the dictatorship. Therefore, Islamabad administration will have very limited options while looking for help from its traditional partners in Riyadh.
Then comes the Russian card. Many experts have pointed out the Russian option as an alternative to any aggressive move by the Trump administration. Unfortunately, this too is not a reliable option in the face of certain reservations that may hamper the smooth carrying-forward of Pak-Russia ties. Firstly, there is a conventional trust deficit between the two regional players owing to the era of the Cold War and the invasion of Afghanistan. Secondly, experts in Moscow have certain reservations on increased Chinese intervention in the region, especially through key assistance of Pakistan. Russia may, in future, fall in Thucydides trap (which states the possibility of a war between a rising power and an already existing power due to wrong perception of the existing power) and at that time Pakistan will have to choose sides. Hence, Russia will never put all of its eggs in Pakistan’s basket. Finally, though Delhi-Washington ties are strengthening, India, not Pakistan, is still the largest trading partner of Russia.
And finally enters the most reliable weapon from our arsenal: China. Even a layman will answer without giving any second thought that China will save us from the American aggression at any cost. Well, God knows. The truth is, China has a history of never sacrificing its own national interests come what may. China is pioneering its game changing project under the name of OBOR. There are many important corridors that pass through Europe, which is under the influence of the US. In this regard, the Trump administration holds a leverage to prevent China from any active participation in any expedition against the US. Furthermore, US also enjoys leverage in the form of presence in Afghanistan. China will look towards CAS (Central Asian States) to fulfill its energy requirements and unfortunately the road to CAS passes through the rough terrain of Afghanistan. Any disruption in this area will halt the flow of energy supplies to China. So, we must not expect any active support from China, though it may Veto resolutions against Pakistan and provide diplomatic support. Any active support will push the region into anarchy that China will definitely wish to avoid.
Hence, Pakistan must revisit all its available options, to counter any possible American threat, before it’s too late. Conventional approaches will not work in this era of multi-polarity where every state has its own vested interests to be served. As Sun Tzu once said,“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”We now know, from the past trends in case of Iran and North Korea, what possible moves can America make in the coming days. Thus, we must equip ourselves accordingly and move cautiously.