Talking to a TV channel on Jan. 3, Director General Inter Services Public Relations, Major-General Asif Ghafoor, abstained from verbal aggression when replying to President Trump’s tweet about Pakistan’s “deceit and lying,” and kept referring to the United States as an ally: “We are still friends and allies and war cannot be fought with allies.” While straightening out the matter of America’s “billions” given in aid to Pakistan, he abstained from issuing the “deserved” tongue-lashing that every newsreader on TV thinks his/her national obligation to deliver.
The beleaguered government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi thinks the spat with Trump is the moment of “national solidarity” when it has to stand with all the opposition parties to give a “face-shattering” reply to America. Reference to national pride and honor was predictably made and it was declared that Islamabad was ready for any situation arising out of Washington’s decision to hit Pakistan inside its sovereign territory. The government’s rivals also competed with one another to declare war on the United States sitting “defeated” in Afghanistan and facilitating India’s evil designs on Pakistan.
Given Pakistan’s troubled internal situation, it pays to exercise flexible statesmanship while replying to Trump’s universally abominated style of address. For instance, it was a good idea to relent on the matter of Hafiz Saeed whose defiance of the U.N. anti-terrorism sanctions against him was embarrassing to most thinking Pakistanis. And it was wrong policy to “mainstream” him instead of clamping down on him to placate an entire world community bothered about Pakistan’s tolerance of terrorists on its soil. Pakistan can show off its “advantages” vis-à-vis America—like the “supply route” that American forces use through Pakistan—but it should also carefully scan the “two-front” vulnerabilities it is forgetting in case war breaks out.
It is always useful to carefully study the state behavior of China when challenged by the likes of Trump. China gives priority to trade—which Pakistan shuns as a tenet of its nationalism—and displays endless flexibility to sustain its progress to being the sole superpower of the world.