Does Pakistan Have Civil-Military Divide On US Ties?

Multiple media reports and analysts have suggested that there is civil-military divide in Pakistan on the question of relations with the United States. These reports cite General Bajwa's statement that "We share a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the United States" and the fact that this statement came a day after the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan formally protested to the United States for allegedly backing his opponents in a parliamentary no-confidence vote seeking his ouster from power. However, a look at more detailed remarks by General Bajwa at the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022 (ISD2022) lead to an entirely different conclusion: There is no civil-military divide in Islamabad on the question of US-Pakistan ties.  

Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) with General Bajwa

Answering a question about US-Pakistan ties at the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said China is "off course our neighbor, a very important neighbor, and our military ties are growing". 

He complained about the US denying helicopter engines for T129's Pakistan ordered from Turkey. Similarly, he said France & Germany denied submarine engines for Pakistan under Indian pressure. 

He said Pakistan wants good relations with the US & western Europe but it is being left no choice but to seek its military hardware from China & Russia. He encouraged Western participants at the Islamabad conference to think about these things.

The ISD 2022 hosted 17 foreign speakers from the US, China, UK, Russia, European Union, Japan, and elsewhere.

Bajwa reminded the West that Pakistan was a part of US-led military alliances SEATO & CENTO. He said Pakistan helped the West dismantle the Soviet Union. 

“Our commitment to defeat terrorism remains unwavering,” he said, adding that with the help of security and law enforcement agencies, Pakistan has made significant gains against terrorism. 

“Pakistan, as a country located at the crossroads of economic and strategic confronts, is navigating these shared challenges in our immediate region and through our partnership in the international community,” he said.

“It [National Security Policy] recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the economic, human and traditional security, placing economic security at the core,” he said.

“It is our collective responsibility towards the people of Afghanistan to ensure timely and adequate flow of humanitarian aid into the country; however, the world, especially the west is preoccupied with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine,” he stated, reminding that we must not forget the 40 million Afghans during these times.

“Inability to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will not only lead to the refugee crisis but will again make Afghanistan an epicenter of terrorism where Daesh — which has a global agenda — flourishes which may result in more than one 9/11s,” he said.

“Good or bad, it is important for the international community to keep the Afghan government’s nose above the water.”

Mentioning the performance of the interim Afghan government, he said: “The performance of the present Afghan government is not satisfactory, to say the least, but we have to be patient and accommodative.”

“Instead of imposing sanctions, which have never worked, we must incentivize Afghans for their positive work and behavioral change,” he said, reiterating that disengagement with Afghanistan is “not an option.”

“India’s indifferent attitude in not informing Pakistan immediately about an irrelevant launch of a missile is equally concerning,” he said, hoping that the international community will realize that this incident could have resulted in the loss of lives in Pakistan or an accidental shooting down of a passenger plane that was flying along the path of the cruise missile.

“On our part, like early 2019, when Pakistan demonstrated its role as a responsible member of the international community by returning the captured pilot of an intruding fighter aircraft we have once again demonstrated maturity and responsibility in our response,” he said.

Bajwa  reiterated: “Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward in this front if India agrees to do so with one-third of the world in the Gulf region involved in some sort of conflict and war it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region.”

“I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptional biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” he said, highlighting the intransigent behavior of the Indian leaders.

“While with Russia, Pakistan had cold relations for a long time due to numerous reasons; however, recently there have been some positive developments in this regard,” he said.

“Sadly, the Russian invasion is very unfortunate as thousands of people have been killed, millions made refugees and half of Ukraine destroyed,” he said, stressing the need to address the issue “immediately”.

“Pakistan has consistently called for an immediate ceasefire […] we support immediate dialogue between all sides to find a lasting solution to the conflict,” he said, highlighting the humanitarian assistance sent to Ukraine from Pakistan.

“The continuation or expansion of the conflict in Ukraine will not serve the interest on any side least of all the developing countries which will continue to face the social-economic cost of the conflict — a conflict that can easily get out of hand,” the COAS said.

“Pakistan today has a unique position where it has very cordial historic relation with both the camps,” he said.

Here's a short clip of General Bajwa's remarks at ISD2022:


Riaz Haq said…
Growing ties between #Pakistan and #China raise concern in #Washington and #NewDelhi. Just how close Sino-Pakistani ties have become can be seen in a 33-point document issued by the two countries in early February during #ImranKhan's visit to #Beijing

China’s engagement in South Asia has increased significantly in recent years, going beyond economic and development projects to encompass geostrategic and security interests.

And perhaps in no other country in the region has Beijing expanded its footprint more than in Pakistan, raising concerns in Washington and New Delhi about the geostrategic implications of this deepening partnership.

The latest example of this was the Pakistan Day Parade in Islamabad in late March, which saw the country’s military display several recently acquired, Chinese-made platforms such as J-10CE multirole fighter aircraft, battle tanks, self-propelled howitzers and air-defense equipment.

China’s supply of advanced military equipment to Pakistan — also including warships and submarines — is part of an intensifying military and intelligence cooperation that reflects the growing level of trust between the two sides.

The burgeoning military ties, which also include joint defense-industrial projects such as the JF-17 fighter aircraft, can largely be seen as an attempt by both sides to counter capability advancements by their common regional rival India, particularly as they both remain in territorial disputes with New Delhi.

“For Beijing, Pakistan serves as a buffer against India. And for Islamabad, China is a key source of arms and other support to strengthen Pakistani capacities to counter India,” says Michael Kugelman, the deputy director at the Asia program of the Washington-based Wilson Center.

Geopolitical developments in recent years have made this dynamic even stronger, as New Delhi has gradually drawn closer to Washington and its allies under “the Quad” grouping of countries, which also includes Japan and Australia. Kugelman argues that China lacks the capacity to contain the defense-industrial development of a regional giant such as India, which is why Beijing’s strategy is instead focused on countering India — as seen in the Himalayan border standoff in recent years — and outperforming it economically.

The growing Sino-Pakistani cooperation has set off alarm bells in New Delhi, especially as Chinese arms and money continue to flow into Pakistan. Moreover, the Indian military, which is preparing for a potential two-front war with China and Pakistan, is also concerned about the possibility of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) establishing a more robust logistics and basing infrastructure in the region.

Beijing is pursuing additional military facilities in foreign countries — beyond its base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa — to support naval, air, ground, cyber, and space power projection, according to the Pentagon’s 2021 China Military Power report. And one of the locations likely considered by China is Pakistan, along with Cambodia, Myanmar and other nations.

Riaz Haq said…
In Q&A, #US Assistant Secretary of State for #SouthAsia Donald Lu neither confirmed nor denied having a threatening conversation with #Pakistan's Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan. When pressed, Lu said: "That’s all I have for you on that question". #ImranKhan

Q: Let me move to the rest of the region and start with Pakistan. Imran Khan seems to suggest that you had a conversation with the Pakistani ambassador in the US and told him that if Imran Khan survives the no-confidence motion, Pakistan is in trouble and the US won’t forgive Pakistan. Any response?

A: We are following developments in Pakistan and we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law.

Q: Did you have such a conversation?

A: That’s all I have for you on that question.
Riaz Haq said…
Snap National Poll – National ASSEMBLY DISSOLUTION and Views of Pakistani Public

Key findings:

1) Widespread support for dissolution of National Assembly in Pakistan

Respondents were asked ‘ PM has dissolved the national assembly and called for fresh elections. Do you Support or are you against this’ To this question a wide majority 68% say they support and 32% say they oppose PM Imran Khan’s move.

2) Majority don’t believe in US Conspiracy to remove Imran Khan, although split exists along party lines.Significant majority 64% responded to this question and say that Imran Khan was being ousted because of inflation and not because of a foreign conspiracy.

3) Public Opinion split over performance of Imran Khan

Respondents were asked ‘ Imran Khan ruled for 3.5 years. Are you satisfied with the performance of their government or not satisfied?
To this question ‘ 54% said they are dissatisfied and 46% said they are satisfied’

4) Anti Americanism: Only 1 in 3 consider US to be a friend

Respondents were asked Some people think that America is a friend of Pakistan, and some people think it is an enemy. what is your opinion?
Almost 2 in 3 Pakistanis(72%) think US to be an enemy. Anti Americanism was highest among PTI Supporters (80% thought America was an enemy) and lowest among PML-N voters (65%)
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani official has expressed to Newsweek that relations with the United States would stay their course after a no-confidence vote prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has accused Washington of seeking to oust him.

The Pakistani official told Newsweek that the vote was "a parliamentary process as per the constitution, and that "Pakistan-U.S. relations will remain on track as is evident from the engagement we had in the past one year."

The parliamentary motion Saturday produced 174 votes against Khan, two more than needed to remove him from office, and followed a dramatic escalation in political rifts within a nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people that constitute the world's second-largest Muslim population.

Since coming to office in August 2018, the populist cricket star-turned-politician has faced growing tensions with the nation's influential military leadership as well as worsening inflation. Abroad, he had embraced a tightening bond with neighboring China and an increasingly difficult relationship with the U.S., which has forged stronger ties in recent years with Pakistan's top rival, India.

As support grew for Khan's ousting, the Pakistani premier alleged last week that the effort was a result of "blatant interference in domestic politics by the United States." His accusation was later backed by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, a fellow member of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party who attempted to block the no-confidence vote and dissolve parliament last Sunday, only to be overruled on Friday by the Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden's administration has vehemently denied the claims.
Riaz Haq said…
Syed Talat Hussain
By opting out of the swearing in ceremony of PM Shehbaz Sharif, Gen Bajwa has achieved 3 unenviable outcomes. 1) Fuelling Imran’s charge of this govt being an outcome of “US conspiracy”; 2) acknowledging street pressure;3) acknowledging internal sensitivities. Bad gesture.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan has been an important ally for 75 years: #US Sec of State Blinken’s message to #ShahbazSharif. "The United States views a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as essential for the interests of both of our countries"
via @swati_bhasin

Pakistan has been an "important partner on wide-ranging mutual interests for nearly 75 years", the United States' secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement as he congratulated the country's new prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, who was elected this week after several weeks of political turbulence. In a statement, Blinken said, "We value our relationship. The United States congratulates newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and we look forward to continuing our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan’s government."

The remarks come even as Imran Khan continues to hurl allegations of "foreign conspiracy" over his ouster as he became the first prime minister in the country on Sunday to lose power through a no confidence motion. 174 lawmakers in the 342-member National Assembly voted in favour of the no-trust vote.

"The United States views a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as essential for the interests of both of our countries," Blinken said in his remarks.

Khan, 69, had repeatedly alleged that billions were being spent by his rivals to ensure the fall of his government as he was accused of derailing the country's economy. He even named a US diplomat, Donald LU, linking him to the alleged plot.

However, Shehbaz Sharif, brother of three-time former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, had rebuffed the claims. So did the US.

Earlier this week, as Pakistan's new government was elected, White House's Jen Psaki, at a media briefing, said: “We value our long standing cooperation with Pakistan and have always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to the US interests. That remains unchanged regardless of who the leadership is." The White House press secretary also stressed that the US "does not prefer one party over the other".

Responding to the White House's remarks, Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement cited by local media: "The new government wishes to constructively and positively engage with the US to promote shared goals of peace, security and development in the region."

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