Richard Haass spot on

Extracted from Najmuddin Shaikh’s Op-Ed piece in today’s Dawn newspaper.


Mr. Richard Haass, currently the president of the council of foreign relations, appeared on a popular TV programme (the Charlie Rose show) in America on the September 5 and was asked whether he agreed with the view that “Pakistan is the most challenging issue in the world today because it’s right (sic) ripe with terrorists and corruption and nuclear weapons. If there’s a place that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of wrong people that’s it”.

He started his reply by saying “Alas I think he’s right. When I look at the world and I look at situations that worry me, Pakistan is towards the top of my list. It’s a country with a population now greater than Russia. We’re talking about a country with a population of 145-150 million people. In which you haven’t been able to work out a stable democracy to say the least. You’ve had basically a series of coups and military governance. You’ve got significant number of nuclear weapons.

“You’ve got a running low-level war with its neighbour, India. You have a degree of involvement with terrorism. You’ve got an intelligence service that historically has been slightly out of control. They’re once again messing around in Afghanistan. You’ve got schools that (sic) these religious schools Madressahs that are in many ways turning out young men who are trained for nothing except extremist causes in many cases. When you look at this country of 145-150 million people, you’ve got every right to be concerned. If Pakistan ever becomes a failed state, that is a strategic nightmare. ….

“When I look at American foreign policy and I look out at what really matters I would say one of the biggest priorities, if not the biggest priority, for American foreign policy in addition to these immediate crisis ought to be to help influence the trajectory of societies like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, but Pakistan above all. We ought to be putting as we are beginning to send a large amount of aid in there, economic assistance but on a conditional basis.

“So we will give you economic aid if you, you know, introduce the rule of law, get rid of corruption. We will start reform, help you reform your schools to give you a decent curriculum. We’ve got to work with their police and their law enforcement, their intelligence services to clean up….. If we don’t, what happened on 9/11 will simply be the dress rehearsal for the future.”

Another coincidence

As mentioned in my previous post, Musharraf has produced another worthy from the al Qaeda roll of honour timed to coincide with his latest trip to the US. The Washington Post has pointed this out too in today’s article
Pakistan Captures Terror Chief’s Brother . It says


Several of Pakistan’s high-profile arrests of suspected terrorists have coincided with major international diplomatic events.

Exactly a year after Sept. 11, 2001, a suspected planner of the attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh, was captured in the southern city of Karachi. Then, in June, three days after Musharraf met President Bush in the United States, authorities arrested another al-Qaida operative and seized a video cassette that was purportedly of bin Laden warning of attacks against U.S. interests.

Pakistani officials have denied that they orchestrate the timing of the operations, saying the link is coincidental.

The peson in question, Rusman Gunawan alias Gungun is the brother of Hambali, the terrorist mastermind of Jemaah Islamiah. According to this Straits Times report Gungun, a vegetable seller from West Java, was studying at Abu Bakar Islamic University in Pakistan on a Pakistan government scholarship. Now what do you call a government that sponsors students to study at what the newspaper describes to be ‘a suspected hub for Muslim miltants ?

Pakistan, a Troubled Ally

During Musharraf’s now frequent visits to the United States, it has become customary for an editorial or op-ed to appear in a leading newspaper laying out the cards as they are. Yesterday’s New York Times carries such an article, titled Pakistan, a Troubled Ally.

The article cites Pakistan’s half-hearted support on the al Qaeda/Taliban front, continued support of violence against Indians in Kashmir and nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, going on to note that the US may need to review its relationship with Musharraf if this recalcitrance continues.

Such articles seem part of the Bush administration’s carrot-and-stick strategy to keep Musharraf on his toes. Unfortunately this strategy does not seem to be working all that well. Before leaving for the US Musharraf makes it a point to announce the arrest of some jehadis, this time 17 madrassa students from Indonesia and Malaysia, and prove his continued usefulness as an ally. This causes the Bush administration to issue a statement that Musharraf is a stalwart ally in the war against terror.

While this charade has its usefulness, it must not be a substitute for real strategy. The US must link its long-term aid programme to Pakistan’s performance set against a time-table.

Can Pakistan be saved ?

“The Pakistan of the Army, followed closely by the Pakistan of the civilian politicians, has long put the freedom of Kashmiris from Indian rule ahead of the freedom of Pakistanis from illiteracy, inequality, and poverty.” writes Council for Foreign Relations’ Mahnaz Ispahani in her review of two recent books on Pakistan in the New Republic, titled Can Pakistan Be Saved?

The article is quite a cogent analysis of many of the issues that make Pakistan the dangerous entity it is. Her proposed solution however, is to give Pakistan more of the same – development aid, trust in Musharraf. Most US analysts tend to take Musharraf at his face value. Even they should be aware of his famous double dealings. The C-130s the Bush Administration gave him for the war on terror were used to ship missiles from North Korea. Far from addressing the nation to cleanse itself of terror and extremist madrassas, he has resorted to more exciting themes like building dams to solve water problems which are likely to appear in 2050 !

Musharraf’s duplicity becomes all the more dangerous given the nuclear dimension. Given its ‘strategic assets’ are as important as the ‘Kashmir cause’ it is reasonable to assume that Musharraf is likely to dupe the US on this account as well.

The Guardian reported yesterday that the Saudis are planning to acquire some nuclear weapons as well. Given the deep bonds between the two countries, as well as suspicions that Saudi money was used to partially fund Pakistan’s Islamic bomb a nuclear nexus between these two countries cannot be ruled out. This nexus is a strategic threat to India, the United States and Israel.

There is no point in giving any aid to Pakistan without simultaneously strengthening its democratic institutions and disarming its military-intelligence complex. It needs more of a MacArthur like intervention which reforged Japan into a dynamic modern nation.

There is a small body

There is a small body of opinion in Pakistan that is advocating a paradigm shift in Pakistani thinking. Here’s an article from The News International dated 17 Sep 2003.

Time for paradigm shift

M B Naqvi

Following a flurry of news items about an emerging new US-Israel-India axis, rising tide of Indo-Israel military cooperation and Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s New Delhi visit, Pakistan’s reaction was summed up by Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri: “We will do whatever is required to make sure that the minimum credible balance (with India) is maintained. We have done that for 56 years”. This is a clear declaration of policy that Pakistan will continue to run the arms race with its traditional ‘enemy’.

Given the background of 56 years of cold war, interspersed with four or five wars and half-wars, this is an expected knee-jerk reaction to the emergence of the informal US-Israel-India strategic convergence. US Assistant Secretary of State Ms Rocca has denied its existence, perhaps for the record. This is one of those terminological exactitudes that politicians take recourse to when being really truthful can hurt some of their interests. The trend of growing congruence of strategic perceptions among the governments of the three states is unmistakable. It is like an active living together already, whether or not formal wedding ceremonies have taken place.

There is no doubt it poses a painful dilemma to the ruling establishment of this country. Fifty-year old central plank of Pakistan’s foreign policy was to be loyal camp followers of the US. The latter in return sporadically supported (in 1950s) Pakistan over Kashmir, gave it military aid off and on, always supported the military-led establishment remain in power through the thick of dictatorships or thin of bogus democracies and has underwritten all military dictators, if also at a political price. Now here is a powerful undertow of strategic interests of the US coalescing with those of Israel and India (Pakistan’s ‘enemy’). This is tantamount to the Heavens falling or the earth opening up. Where will these forlorn elites go?
Continue reading “There is a small body”

Sending troops to Iraq is in India’s self-interest

It is clear that the United States armed forces are thinly stretched across the world, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. With North Korea up to new nuclear shenanigans the US will have its plates full in the near future. Presidential elections in 2004 will make additional deployment of US reservist and other troops politically unviable. Of course this leaves the United States to re-deploy its forces into “flavour of the month” hotspots. There is an election in Taiwan round the corner too, and one can expect the Pacific fleet and forces to be moved in the Pacific rim area.

In such a scenario India needs to pragmatically examine the strategic implications vis-a-vis its own national interests.It needs to ensure that not only is Pakistan under constant pressure to arrest the jihadi elements within its territory, but also is bracketed on the western frontier by US forces checking the advance of neo-Taliban into Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the co-opting of a multinational force in Afghanistan, it is only the US which can successfully coerce the Pakistani military establishment to check the resurgence of terrorism on the Pak-Afghan border. It is therefore critical that US forces remain engaged on the Pak-Afghan front in the War against Terror. This will also mean that Pakistan’s continued direct and covert support for jihadi elements will remain in focus in the West keeping the pressure on Musharraf regime. All this implies that Pakistan will not be able to go back to the pre-9/11 stand of providing ‘moral support’ to the jihad in Kashmir, as overwhelming public opinion and the perspective of the international community will not be sympathetic to this line of reasoning.

It is therefore in India’s interest that the US does not divert its forces (and its strategic attention) from Afghanistan. If India is able to drive a strategic quid pro quo with the Bush Administration under which India can send its troops on peacekeeping duties in Iraq, in return for more intense US involvement in Aghanistan then it would be a win-win-win for India. US pressure on Pakistan implies less risk for Indian troops already engaged in anti-terrorism missions in Kashmir. The US government and public opinion is sure to see India as a strategic ally. From a commercial perspective, Indian firms could win some reconstruction contracts in Iraq, especially if this is linked to troop commitment.

Another key strategic ramification is the impact it will have on Pakistan’s internal dynamic. It is sure to further squeeze Musharraf between US demands to contribute troops versus vicious domestic opposition especially from the religious parties. The events following 9/11 have begun to Pakistan to re-examine its ideological bearings. India’s long term hopes for a peaceful co-existence with Pakistan rest on the chance that Pakistan will discard its misguided ideology which is based on hate. Any move to bring about circumstances when this can happen soon is in India’s interest.

This is a strategic “inflection point” – an opportunity for India to seal a new partnership with like-minded states. The current stance of the Indian government is best defined as a reluctance to anger a future Iraqi regime at the price of alienating the sole present superpower. Pragmatism should rule.

[This post was ‘published’ on 16 Sep 2003, using Blogger]