The visit to India was part of the APEC Arc that President Obama undertook culminating in 19 November NATO Summit at Lisbon. Many Pakistanis who felt that India was accorded preferential treatment need to acknowledge that it was as much part of the mission to garner support for the AFPAK Strategy as it is to seal and contain the Asia Pacific Rim from Russian and Chinese influence or to parry the failures of US policy in Afghanistan.
USA is fast losing long term allies in Afghanistan while the talk of an imminent ‘withdrawal with victory’ doesn’t help to keep its army focused on fighting. As the days pass, USA sees no definite event that could truly provide a firm date of withdrawal. The ten year old policy hinged on destroying Al Qaeda has failed and now must be revised to routing out hostile sanctuaries in Pakistan. Hence the present diplomacy can be seen as seeking greater support from the allies in the game of global domination as also secure sufficient space to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the broader frame work of global dominance, India is considered a long term strategic ally to patrol and identity with US interests in the entire Indian Ocean Rim. Role of Pakistan is restricted to its perceived destructive potential in Afghanistan and to combat and tame the militant outfits in its border regions and rest of the restive country. This message is loud and clear in the intense diplomatic chatter, leaks and interviews.
In words of Rick Rozoff of Global Research President Obama took this whirlwind visit to:
“Receive the plaudits of 27 North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and secure their continued fealty on issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to a continental interceptor missile system, the continued deployment of American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, participation in the Pentagon’s cyber warfare plans and expanded military missions in the planet’s south and east…….. In the first half of November the quadrivirate in charge of U.S. foreign policy – President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen – all toured the Asia-Pacific area.…..The Pentagon has indeed marked this as its Asia-Pacific century”.
While Obama toasted and danced in India, Pakistan was conveyed mixed signals meaning that all had not gone well in the latest strategic dialogue. The regional emissary Mr. Richard Holbrook was quick to support the civilian supremacy and belittle a dictator who was once ranted as America’s most trusted and valuable ally. In his well planned interview, he credited USA with restoration of the judges and rule of civilian law. In the process, he took credit away from Pakistan’s civil society and political activists who forced the dictator into a comedy of errors and the legislators that combined to threaten the dictator with impeachment. Rather a a caution to the military, its primary purpose was to divert attention from the imbroglio that USA had landed itself to rue Pakistan’s military establishment as the villain.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report on “US Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan’ was blown apart by an article by Arnaud De Borchgrave in Washington Post by calling Pakistan a BOMBSHELL. Why and whose behest he did so in anybody’s guess. He coupled his opinion with an earlier off the record interview of a Pakistani Editor who gave his own version of what Pakistan’s security establishment was up to, along with a Pakistani narrative that suits the majority against the rising militancy.
Despite such bad accompaniments, the CFR Report is distinct in its implied threats to Pakistan as also holding out a sign of hope for the people of Pakistan.
The perceptions put forth revolve around three elements of insecurity. First, the like minded Al Qaeda type groups operate freely in Afghanistan and Pakistan posing a threat to USA, India and its allies? Secondly, prospects of a Civil War in Afghanistan threatening stability in Pakistan leading to an Indo-Pak conflict. The third relates to exploitation of Pakistan’s prevailing conditions by terrorists to seize power and take hold of the nuclear weapons and threaten the entire world.
As any strategist would understand, a threat analysis built on vulnerability is unrealistic and exaggerated. This is a scenario called ‘ugly instability’ that has been war gamed by USA many times and whose author is no other but a US opinion maker of Indian descent. The fact that India is central to all three insecurities manifests the importance USA is according to its newest ally in contrast to Pakistan. One Mumbai incident has become a perennial anti Pakistan rhetoric eclipsing numerous such sieges within Pakistan for which USA shows no concern. It also gives a peep into the intense US-India dialogue, in which threat from non state actors to India through the freedom movement in Kashmir is pivotal and factorized. The fact that USA is more sensitive to Indian security concerns than the fissures its policies create in Pakistan to breed a hate that could put the entire region in a tailspin.
It is evident that as USA gets bogged down in Afghanistan, it considers Pakistan a liability to its Central Asian Agenda. However, this liability is of USA’s own making as it does not wish to annoy India by according Pakistan a befitting role in the post USA Afghanistan. In the ultimate analysis, the cost of shrugging off this unwanted, nuclear armed reluctant ally could far outweigh the benefits of appeasing India.
The CFR Study has also considered options to deal with Pakistan.
The first is a stick with no carrots and out rightly rejected.
Secondly, a more hard-line approach than is considered politically destabilizing in the immediate and long term US interests.
The third option seeks to engage Pakistan through investments and partnerships more apt to produce desirable results. This is an option that most Pakistanis including the recent US Survey in FATA have been envisaging. Supporting this third option, the task force finds that:
“The United States has two vital national security objectives in Pakistan: to degrade and defeat the terrorist groups that threaten U.S. interests from its territory and to prevent turmoil that would imperil the Pakistani state and risk the security of its nuclear program. It will be exceedingly difficult to achieve either of these objectives without the cooperation of the Pakistani state; this requires improving the quality of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship…. which includes the security of Pakistan’s population, the health of its economy, the capacity of its governing institutions, and the character of its relations with other states in the region (meaning India and Afghanistan)”.
Diplomacy of the past few months indicates the crucial status of Pakistan-US relations with each side unable to convince the other of its sincerity and loyalty. Beyond the initial points of convergence and political exigencies, the strategic objectives of both countries are now marred by mutual suspicion and circumspection. These in turn prolong the conflict both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For the time being Pakistan shows no signs of tearing apart; as the conflict intensifies so does the cohesion within ranks and files of all Pakistanis galvanizing around a new national agenda alien to the corridors of power. Some Pakistanis have already begun to consider such an informed upheaval as a better alternative to a bloody revolution.
Michel Kreppon is an informed and learned opinion maker from USA. His note of dissent to the CFR report very aptly sums up the unrealistic assumptions of leaders both in USA and Pakistan.
“To hold out the expectation that, this time around, with such a heavy U.S. military presence in Afghanistan dependent on Pakistani logistical support, Washington can coercively manipulate Pakistan’s orientation…..seems unwise. Pakistan’s security managers have to come to their own realization that their policies have resulted in profound damage to their country. If they do not, the natural result, with no U.S. manipulation necessary, will be the continued mortgaging of Pakistan’s future, its distancing from the West, and its economic decline”.