Pakistan cannot be a strategic US ally: Experts

Ambassador (retd) Abdul Basit flanked by PTI lawmaker Dr. Shireen Mazari and Major General (retd) Hafiz Masroor Ahmed speak at a seminar, “United States’ South Asia Policy: Challenges for Pakistan,” here in Islamabad. (AN photo)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Pakistan cannot be a strategic US ally: Experts

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan cannot be a strategic ally of the US as the latter’s interests in South Asia contradict Pakistan’s national interests, defense and security experts said on Monday at a seminar in Islamabad organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Pakistan’s relationship with the US is transactional, and Islamabad mistook it as strategic, said Abdul Basit, president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
US interests in South Asia “are totally in contradiction to the national interests of Pakistan,” and “we don’t have any foreign policy to deal with the challenges,” he added.
A lack of convergence of interests, and of economic cooperation, are the major contributing factors to the relationship’s poor history, he said.
“We need to formulate proactive diplomacy and behave as a mature nation instead of just reacting to international developments,” he said. “During the last four years, we have lost our space in US diplomacy.”
Dr. Shireen Mazari, a lawmaker with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and director general of the Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad, said Pakistan miscalculated its relationship with the US.
“Pakistan has been acting against its own interests in the region just to serve the US, and this should come to an end now,” she said.
The rise of India as a regional power, the isolation of Iran and the containment of China are the major US interests in South Asia, she added.
“Our national interests did not converge with the interests of the US,” Mazari said, adding that America can never be a natural strategic ally to Pakistan.
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said the relationship remains hostage to fundamental differences. “Pakistan needs to work out some fundamental changes in its foreign policy to normalize relations with the US,” he added.
Pakistan should capitalize on its geostrategic importance and redefine its relationship with the US and India for regional peace and stability, he said.
Hafiz Masroor Ahmed, vice president of the Center for Global and Strategic Studies, said Indian influence in Afghanistan poses a danger to Pakistan.
Islamabad should not be a hostage to US interests in the region, as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban were sabotaged by Washington, he added. “All our institutions should formulate a joint strategy to deal with the US,” he said.
Shakeel Ahmad, director of research uptake and business development at the SDPI, said the Trump administration “has brought a mix of change and continuity in the country’s foreign and security policies, including those in South Asia, and we need to understand that for a better relationship.”


Canada extends Iraq, Ukraine military training missions

Updated 19 min 10 sec ago
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Canada extends Iraq, Ukraine military training missions

  • Chrystia Freeland: "Ukraine can continue to count on Canada's unwavering support"
  • In Iraq, Canada will keep 250 special forces troops training Iraqi security forces

OTTAWA: Canada's defense and foreign ministers jointly announced Monday the extensions of military training missions in Iraq and Ukraine.
Both had been slated to wrap up at the end of March, but security concerns persist.
In Iraq, Canada will keep 250 special forces troops advising and training Iraqi security forces, plus several attack helicopters, as part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State mission until the end of March 2021.
The number of troops deployed could ramp up to 850, if needed, and they will also help neighboring Jordan and Lebanon build their respective security capabilities, said officials.
Complementing those efforts, Canada last November assumed command of a new NATO mission. It has been contributing air power, medical support and help in training Iraqi forces since 2014.
"We have made significant and lasting progress, but we recognize that more work is needed. Now we must ensure that Daesh can never rebuild and threaten the safety of Iraq," Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan told a press conference, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
In Ukraine, some 200 Canadian troops will continue to provide arms, military engineering, logistics, military policing, and medical training until the end of March 2022.
Since 2015, Canada has so far trained nearly 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
Canada will also host a third Ukraine reform conference in Toronto on July 2-4.
"Ukraine can continue to count on Canada's unwavering support," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
"It's very important to send a strong message to Ukraine, to the people of Ukraine, and to the international community that the invasion of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea are a grave breach of international law," she added.