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CSPA listing: An irrational move by the US

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The United States has placed Pakistan and 14 other States in its Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list. This placement comes at a time when relations between Pakistan and the United States are looking for new dimensions. The United States Child Soldiers Prevention Act accounts for the placement of Foreign Governments, which are involved in the recruitment of child soldiers, in a list and enforcement of restrictions on them. The Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) also requires the publication of a list of the States that use and recruit child soldiers in the Trafficking In Person (TIP) report which is published annually by the United states’ state department. These States are added to the list after a review period of 1 year. For example, April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021.
The CSPA has defined the term “child soldier” as a person under the age of 18 who: “take direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces; or are compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces (or are under 15 years old and are voluntarily recruited), including in non-combat roles; or are recruited or used in hostilities by non-state armed forces, including in non-combat roles”.
The CSPA list published in the annual Trafficking In Person (TIP) report 2021 includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, South Sudan, Burma, Mali, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen. Given that, Pakistan and Turkey are added for the first time to the CSPA list. It results in the imposition of sanctions on military assistance and restrictions on the inclusion of the listed states in peacekeeping programs.
However, Pakistan has reacted strongly by categorically rejecting all the allegations and protested to the United States for its unfair inclusion in the list. In a press release the Foreign Office has said, “Pakistan does not support any non-state armed group; nor any entity recruiting or using child soldiers”. Furthermore, terming the allegations as baseless, the Foreign Office said, “the inclusion of Pakistan in the ‘CSPA List’ depicts a factual error and lack of understanding”. Here, it is pertinent to mention that the legal age defined for an individual to join defence services is 18. No one below the age of 18 can join defence services be it combat or non-combat roles. Moreover, a person has to have a Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) issued by NADRA before joining any service.
This listing can be seen as the continuity of the US policy towards Pakistan. For example, Pak-US relations were not smooth under the Trump administration. Trump accused Pakistan of deceiving the US and harbouring terrorism and imposed sanctions on Pakistan. He blamed Pakistan and did not recognise Pakistan’s sacrifices and role in the war on terror. However, with Biden coming to power, it was hoped that the United States “do more” policy towards Pakistan would change and Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and bringing peace to Afghanistan would be acknowledged. But, unfortunately, the recent inclusion of Pakistan in the CSPA list has shown that nothing has changed. Moreover, it can be said that the baseless allegations levelled at Pakistan show nothing but the continuity of the US policy of accusing and pressurizing Pakistan while not acknowledging its role.
Having said that, it will also have an impact on the already soaring Pak-US relations. Although this relationship dates back to 1947, it still lacks trust and equality. However, Pakistan wants peaceful, equal and civilized relations with the US. But, the recent action of the US will further affect the balance as it lacks trust and asserts the dominance of the United States. Furthermore, it may have political motives. As Pakistan rejected the United States’ demand of providing its air bases, this action can be considered as a move to pressurize Pakistan into complying with its demands. However, whatever the reason may be behind this move by the United States Government, Pakistan will not come under the pressure of the US at the cost of its national interests and its relations with other powers.
Here, it is important to mention that the United States, either out of its illusion of being an absolute power or its aggressive nature, has not taken a lesson from its history and its policies towards other nations. The US interferes in matters of other sovereign and independent states in three ways: a) It makes laws, interprets them according to its will and impose economic and military sanctions to influence policies of Sovereign States; b) it directly invades states through its powerful military, and c) it pressurizes other states to get by its side and cooperate either militarily or economically.
History is a witness that the US has not backed away from interfering in matters of Sovereign states either directly or indirectly to pursue its interests by influencing the Social, Economic and Political policies of those states. For example, Vietnam, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Yemen. Despite all this, the US has returned mostly bare-handed from those states. But now the world is changing rapidly. And, with the emergence of other powers, the United States is losing its hold and other states have started to question the dominance of the United States.
The shift in balance has resulted in the emergence of different alliances at the Regional and International levels. Pakistan is an important Regional State and Atomic power with a key geostrategic location. Due to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Pakistan’s expanding relations with other Regional Powers all eyes are onPakistan. In the context of relations with China, Russia, Afghanistan, India, Iran and Central Asian Republics, Pakistan’s important strategic role is visible for everyone to see.
Therefore, these unwise decisions of the US cannot blackmail Pakistan into compromise. Lastly, the US needs to understand that the era of “Might is Right” is over and mutual relations can only be established on trust and equality.