The many faces of ‘national interest’

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a talk at Harvard University that Pakistan will preserve its national interests as a frontline ally of the US in fighting the war on terror. “What we are trying to create is a long-term, mature and mutually beneficial partnership,” he said. To call ‘national interest’ a disputed term would not be wrong, especially in Pakistan. This term has so many connotations that anyone and everyone can invoke ‘national interest’ in their own cause. The military and the civilians have different definitions of national interest. Saying that the Pak-US dialogue and the coordination of our policies “will define the direction and future of our bilateral relationship, as well as the success of the containment of terrorism and, quite possibly, the very future of the region” makes one believe that Mr Qureshi’s use of the term ‘national interest’ is close to what the GHQ has in mind.

Ever since the war on terror started, the strategic partnership between Pakistan and the US has been based on a carrot and stick policy. More often than not, Pakistan has dragged its feet on launching military offensives against the Afghan Taliban and their cohorts. The US-led NATO forces and the Afghan government have criticised Pakistan many a time for not doing enough to counter cross-border terrorism. That the local Taliban unleashed a major terror offensive on our soil finally led to military operations in Swat and South Waziristan. But since the major troublemakers reside in North Waziristan, the Americans continue to insist that Pakistan should launch a military offensive there. To date, we have resisted this ‘request’ while the Americans have stepped up drone attacks in the said area. It is time we understand what really is in our national interest and instead of blindly following the military establishment’s security policies, which have led to many disasters over the years, North Waziristan must be cleared of all the terrorist networks present there, including the notorious Haqqani network.

That said, Pakistan needs international aid to deal with the aftermath of the recent devastating floods. Our economy was already in the doldrums and with the floods, we are on the verge of an economic meltdown. Our duality in policy vis-à-vis the war on terror has made the west weary of our leadership, both civilian and military. Corruption is rampant in society, which is why most international donors are reluctant to send more money to Pakistan. The only way to deal with this is that the international community should put in a proper monitoring mechanism and not let the flood affectees suffer due to the shortcomings of our leadership.

On the other hand, it must be understood that our national interest does not lie in fighting proxy wars in Afghanistan or taking ‘control’ of the Afghan government. The Afghan resentment against us goes back a long way, more so after the Afghan jihad and the subsequent takeover by the Taliban. Our real national interest lies in peace with our neighbours and not in exporting terror to the region or the world. Pakistan needs to maintain peaceful, friendly and close ties with all its neighbours, be it India, Afghanistan, Iran, China, or other countries. If we continue to irritate our neighbours for this so-called national interest, it will backfire and damage us. Democracy, an independent judiciary, a free and responsible media, a military under civilian control, land reforms, education, a corruption-free and equitable society are things that are vital to Pakistan’s national interest. Let us not confuse this term with anything else.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


Charliemen said…
Definite And Positive,Please Keep This Attitude Up,By Calling A Spade A Spade,You Will Be Remembered For The Position You Took In Matters Like This!

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