Trump’s South Asia Strategy: An Insider’s View

 

Pakistanis in Lahore protest against the terror that has wracked the city.
Pakistanis in Lahore protest against the terror that has wracked the city. (Photo: ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)

                                      

President Trump’s speech on South Asia comes at a very important time for the area and the people. However, many listeners may have missed the nuances and the urgency, because the speech must be understood in context of the history of South Asia.

Being from Pakistan, I could relate to much of what Trump said, and here is how I understood what the president was saying:

  • Since 1947 (when Pakistan was created) until today, it has not made up its mind whether it wants a Benazir Bhutto-style democracy or a Zia ul Haq style military-mullah alliance
  • The result of this indecision is rampant corruption and failed institutions. For example, even today there is lack of electricity in Pakistan as well as a huge water shortage
  • Being a nuclear power puts Pakistan in a sensitive geo-political position
  • There is no doubt – from the common man to the peasant to a general or the ruling elite – that Pakistan supports terrorist organizations through its intelligence agency the ISI
  • President Trump named 12 of these terror groups but in fact there might be more. Since 9/11 it has become obvious that Pakistan is playing a double game. Some experts call Pakistan a “frenemy” – a friendly enemy.

Let us understand what the reality on the ground really is:

  • China is expanding its tremendous financial and physical presence in Pakistan by buying out its ports so they will have strategic access in both commerce and the military
  • To make matters worse, this is being done in Baluchistan (the largest province area-wise) which has a separatist movement underway
  • Meanwhile, Pakistan has soured its relationship with three of its four neighbours – Iran, Afghanistan and India
  • To maintain a global strategic balance, it is imperative for the US to win the war in Afghanistan while keeping Pakistan under check and encouraging trade and logistic support between India and Afghanistan
  • The Pakistan-Afghan border is porous, which poses a huge challenge. Still, Pakistan has to stop providing a safe haven for terrorists
  • President Trump is going to leave it to his generals to strategize this new phase
  • Winning the war in Afghanistan means leaving a stable country once the terrorism has been rooted out
  • Bush went in to destroy Al Qaeda, but since he did not fully recognize how Al Qaeda had infiltrated all walks of life in Afghanistan, he was not successful
  • Obama beefed up the military, but he had Islamists influencing him so he was not successful
  • If President Trump (as he says) leaves it o his generals to get rid of the terrorists, he has a chance to bring stability to the country – leaving the “nation-building” to the Afghans.

Here’s hoping this new initiative will bring peace to this region plagued by turmoil.

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RR
Raheel Raza
Raheel Raza is ​an adviser to Clarion Project. ​She is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.