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Pakistan under intense pressure from USA-China to recast its terror infested foreign policy
Before Pakistan could reconcile after being warned by America for providing safe havens to terrorists, the joint declaration of the China-hosted BRICS Summit (September 4, 2017) too condemned Pakistan-based terrorist groups like Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed(JeM), which has left Pakistan's foreign policy makers dejected.

Consequently, Pakistan declared that its existing foreign policy is redundant, which needs to be re-framed objectively. Pakistan army, known to be an ardent supporter of Kashmiri militants, also changed its tone and tenor and advocated for resolving the Kashmir issue through dialogue.

Following President Trump's serving notice to Pakistan on harbouring terrorists and providing them safe havens, Pakistan's civil and military leadership made tall claims of having made sacrifices to counter and contain terrorism. But pressure from China-led BRICS countries which compared Pakistan-based and supported terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Taliban, and Haqqani group, with other global terror groups such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have made Pakistan nervous.

Although, in the past too, BRICS countries have strongly criticised terrorism, but at the recent Summit at Xiamen, China, terrorism remained the key focus. The 43-page joint declaration of BRICS nations had 17 references to terrorism, also grouping Pakistan-based Taliban, LeT and JeM with other international terror outfits. This was a message to Pakistan from China to mend it ways or else Beijing would not shy away from joining the international community in criticising Pakistan. China's major concern is uninterrupted completion of the US$ 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and also the safety of Chinese citizens in Pakistan.

Warning to Pakistan overthe presence of terror outfits on its soil, emanating from Xiamen-held economic conclave of five countries jointly known as BRICS, gave a jolt to Pakistan's civil and military leadership. It was unanticipated, as just a few days before the beginning of the BRICS Summit, China had asked India not to raise the issue of Pakistan's sheltering terrorists during the Summit.

However, Pakistan, which had already been cornered by USA and India, felt humiliated by BRICS nations criticising itfor supporting terror outfits. Pakistan's Federal Cabinet met (September 8, 2017, Islamabad) under Prime Minister Abbasi and expressed its deep concern over the BRICS declaration, stating that the terrorists organizations mentioned in BRICS declaration were already banned in Pakistan. Prime Minister Abbasi, in a balanced move, reiterated that China had clarified that BRICS declaration signified no change in its policy towards Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif also reacted over BRICS declaration and claimed that it could not be termed as a failure of the country's foreign policy as terrorist groups included by the BRICS in the list were already banned in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, handling of US and China's pressure on Pakistan by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif led to dissensions in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N). The second most senior leader of PML(N) after Nawaz Sharif and the former Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticised Khawaja Asif over his statement asking Pakistan to set own house right and added that Pakistan did not need an enemy after such a statement from Pakistani foreign minister. He said thatalthough terrorist groups werealso active in India and Afghanistan, but these countries were not asked by anyone to "set their house right".

Pakistan's military leadership also reacted to BRICS call on Pakistan-based terrorist groups with a changed tone and tenor on resolution of the Kashmir issue as well as asking 'jehadis" to cease their violent activities.

Pakistan army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in his address (September 6,2017) on the occasion of Pakistan's 52nd Defense Day at General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, claimed that Pakistan had done "enough" in the war against terrorism and had achieved success with its limited resources. He called upon "jehadis" to stop their activities in Pakistan as the country was suffering due to their such "misguided deeds". While declaring that a close watch was being kept on Pakistan's enemies' designs in Balochistan, Gen Bajwa said that all Pakistanis were ready to make sacrifices for Balochistan. In his address, he also referred to the Kashmir issue and called upon India to stop allegedly insulting Pakistan and using force against Kashmiris and prioritise political and diplomatic solutions for sustainable resolution of the Kashmir issue. Later, Pakistan army commanders, in their meeting (Spetember 8, 2017, Rawalpindi), chaired by Gen Bajwa reviewed regional security situation in the wake of the new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

On the other hand, China too attempted to play down the BRICS warning. Its Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong assured (September 7, 2017) Pakistan that nothing new had been demanded of it with respect to the BRICS declaration against terrorist groups. Sun Weidong also praised Pakistan's efforts against terrorism and added that China fully supported Pakistan's stance on terrorism.

Meanwhile, some Chinese experts opined that China had made a mistake by including militant groups based in Pakistan and Afghanistan in BRICS declaration, which could prove "costly" for China's ties with countries in the region particularly Pakistan. Hu Shisheng, director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations feared that agenda of this BRICS Summit could have been hijacked by "some forces" as the Summit was not the ideal platform to talk about terrorism. Hu also asserted that including Pakistan-based militants groups in the BRICS declaration was a big mistake for which the Chinese government would feel in the coming years. Wang Dehua of the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies also criticised the selective inclusion of Pakistan-based militant groups in the BRICS summit.

However, Ma Jiali, a professor at the influential Communist Party School, asserted that after the BRICS Summit, Pakistan and China would "work in greater detail' to deal with the issue of terrorism in the region. He also opined that China would now be more open to India's views on terrorism.

Since Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khawaja Mohd Asif has already postponed his visit to USA after getting reprimanded by President Trump on issue of terrorism; he is scheduled to visit China, Russia, Turkey and Iran to garner support for Pakistan.

After BRICS Summit's conclusion in China, Pakistan's Foreign Minister received a call from his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and Khawaja Asif paid a day's visit to Beijing (September 8, 2017) and held talks with Wang Yi. After the talks, Khawaja Asif and Wang Yi, in a jointly addressed press conference stated that Pakistan and China had agreed to work together for defense and regional security. Khawaja Asif while emphasizing for a political solution of Afghan conflict claimed that Pakistan's comprehensive action against all terrorist groups including East Turkistan Islamic Movement had yielded positive results.

Wang Yi, in his address appreciated Pakistan's efforts in countering terrorism and called upon international community to recognise "unprecedented sacrifices" made by Pakistan to fight against terrorism. Wang Yi also asserted that peace in Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan, China and the entire region and disclosed that first trilateral meeting between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan would be held in China towards the end of 2017 for encompassing strategic communication, security dialogue and practical cooperation.

Notably, after President Trumps's warning to Pakistan on terrorism, Pakistan had convened a three-day (September 5-7, 2017, Islamabad) conference of nine selected Pakistani envoys, including from India, USA and China, for brainstorming on important foreign policy issues after President Trump's warning to Pakistan. In his inaugural address, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had stressed the need to highlight alleged ongoing atrocities in Kashmir by Indian army on all available international platforms by the Pakistani envoys. While asserting that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict, Khawaja Asif had asserted that peace and stability in Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan.

After the conclusion of the selected Pakistani envoys' conference, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, addressed a press conference and maintained that Pakistan would have to adapt to changing regional situation "swiftly". While mentioning that during the envoys' conference, Pak-US relations, the United Nations and India were discussed, Khawja Asif disclosed that there would be a "paradigm shift" in Pakistan's policy and the new policy would be formulated with the army and the country's institutions, keeping Pakistan's interests in view. Khawaja Asif criticized USA inter alia for its "lack of understanding" of the ground realities of the region and called upon USA to respect Pakistan's sovereignty. Khawaja Asif also added that while Pakistan was not seeking "divorce" with the US but henceforth Pakistan-US relationship would be driven by the Pakistan's national interests. Concluding session of selected Pakistani envoys conference was chaired by the Prime Minister Abbasi.

First, President Trump's warning to Pakistan for sheltering terrorist groups, then China-led BRICS nations holding Pakistan-based terrorist groups responsible for terrorism, has forced Pakistani civil and military leadership to consider excluding supporting terrorist groups from the country's foreign policy. Simultaneous pressure from USA and China has proved to be "double whammy" for Pakistan, whose civil and military leadership is indicating to bring changes in its foreign policy.

It is, however unlikely, that a major shift would be seen in Pakistan's foreign policy in the near future as Pakistan army cannot afford to discard its decades old assets Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network abruptly. And besides, the political leadership is also gearing up to face the masses in the forthcoming general elections in June 2018. But Pakistan is bound to make concerted efforts to protect CPEC from terrorist and dissuade Taliban from hobnobbing with terror groups in China's far-west province of Xinjiang.

Nevertheless, after Chinese coercion and to avoid further worldwide isolation, Pakistan needs to recast its foreign policy invariably and rein in the army supported terrorists for peaceful co-existence with its neighbouring counties.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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