The revival of diplomatic-military ties between US and Pakistan after Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call to Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari this week was a dampener to serious Russian efforts to cultivate Islamabad during the ousted Imran Niazi regime.
While Secretary Blinken has called for a broad-based relationship with Pakistan and invited Zardari for the UN Food Security meeting on May 18, it is learnt that Pentagon has also reopened military channels of communications with Rawalpindi GHQ and Army Chief Qamar Jawed Bajwa.
The renewed dialogue between US and Pakistan after former PM Niazi soured the bilateral ties by siding with Russia and China nixes Moscow’s strategic plan for engaging Islamabad at the cost of America and India. Despite India maintaining its balance over its ties with Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Islamabad in April, 2021 and promised to supply more special military equipment like Mi-35M and Mi-17 helicopters in the past to Pakistan in the name of fighting terrorism. Russia also conducted bilateral special forces exercises called Druzba (friendship) since 2016 as well as maritime exercises in the Arabian Sea called Arabian Monsoon. That Pakistan and Russia want to deepen ties became clear when the then Prime Minister Niazi landed up in Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022, the day Moscow invaded Ukraine. Niazi as PM was very critical of the Joe Biden administration for not engaging Islamabad on Afghanistan, keeping Pakistan out of democratic conference after he praised the Taliban occupation of Kabul August 15, 2021, and called it liberation of Afghanistan from shackles of slavery. The ousted PM also criticized the European Union after the latter pointed out to Islamabad abstaining from the UNGA vote on suspending Russia from the Human Rights Security Council.While New Delhi is watching the developments in the Af-Pak region, America’s primary reason for renewed engagement of Pakistan is due to the rise of Al Qaeda in hardcore Taliban Islamist regime in neighboring Afghanistan. The Taliban has never disavowed Al Qaeda global terrorist group but is opposed to the so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), which continues to thrive across the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan. The other objective for engagement is also to counter the expanding Chinese footprint in Af-Pak region with a shadow in hydrocarbon-rich Persian Gulf region.
Although no one has seen Taliban’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akundzada for nearly a year, the Islamist regime latest diktat on Afghan women clearly indicates that there is no change in the Taliban’s ultra-orthodox policies and all the promised inclusion of minorities in Afghanistan is just a pipedream.
Fact is that Afghan’s are merely played recordings of so-called supreme leader, while Akhundzada is nowhere to be seen and the power struggle between Pak sponsored Haqqani Network and Kandahar based traditional Taliban led by Mullah Yaqub are still on, with hardly any governance in the so-called Islamic Emirate. Rise of ultra-Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan and its spill-over to Pakistan not only poses a national security threat to India but the world at large.