Pragati February 2009: Pakistan needs a MacArthur

Here’s the February 2009 issue of Pragati, a special on Pakistan.

This issue argues that if a stable, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan is in the common interests of India, the world’s major powers and indeed the wider international community, then it is incumbent upon them to engage in a MacArthur-like intervention to transform Pakistan. Merely providing more financial assistance, albeit under different budgetary heads, is unlikely to suffice. In fact, as our in-depth look at one of Pakistan’s biggest jihadi organisations suggests, the export of terrorism from the country is only likely to grow.

In a discussion on India’s options, we examine the role of the use of force; surgical strikes are a fallacy, but credible military capabilities are a necessity. And as the book extract shows, there is a need for skilful diplomacy to use external pressures to bring about internal changes in Pakistan.

In a second perspectives section, we review Pakistan’s relations with its key benefactors—the United States, Saudi Arabia, China and Europe—and highlight how the dynamics of these relationships are changing. The composite picture suggests that after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, and the arrival of the Obama administration, there is an opportunity for India to engage in bold, imaginative diplomacy to galvanise the international community to radically change Pakistan’s course.

Pragati – The Indian National Interest Review
Issue 23 – February 2009

Contents [Download 2MB PDF]


MacArthur should return
Only an international intervention can transform Pakistan
Nitin Pai

Pakistan 2020
Nine alternative futures
K Subrahmanyam, Pakistan Planning Commission, United States National Intelligence Council, Sohail Inayatullah, MD Nalapat, Nadeem Ul Haque, Stephen P Cohen, Rohit Pradhan & Harsh Gupta and R Vaidyanathan


Essential readings of the month
Ravi Gopalan & Vijay Vikram


The assembly line of international terrorism
Why the threat from Jamaat-ud-Dawa is set to rise
Wilson John


Surgeries are messy
Surgical strikes are a conceptual fallacy and not a prudent option
Srinath Raghavan and Rudra Chaudhuri

Kind words and guns
Effective diplomacy needs credible military capacity
Sushant K Singh

Allies, not friends
The US and Pakistan will need to recast their awkward relationship
Dhruva Jaishankar

A flawed sense of security
The Saudi-Pakistan relationship, underpinned by opportunistic security interests, has run its course
Bernard Haykel

New dynamics of an all weather friendship
China’s influence in Islamabad has been subordinated to US priorities in the region
Zorawar Daulet Singh

Europe’s dilemma
Europe can do little in solving Pakistan’s problem
Richard Gowan


The logic of containment
Using external pressures to bring about an internal transformation
C Raja Mohan

19 thoughts on “Pragati February 2009: Pakistan needs a MacArthur”

  1. So where do we stand on the hard copy? I’d really be interested in a subscribing.

  2. Dhruva Jaishankar has a more realistic view of the
    potential scenarios in the future.

    Quite frankly, I see the US as the ditherer in chief – they know what exactly is going on and dont have the werewithal to do anything about it. It is pretty clear that they will ultimately cut their losses and withdraw.

    Just today morning, I was watching the Sunday Talk show This Week(hosted by George Stephanoupoulous) – the most commonly heard question was ” what exactly is the US strategy in the region ?” – there are suggestions that there are going to be 30,000 extra troops added – no one knows what exactly these troops are going to be doing.

    My take is that the situation is so bad that the US wants to make sure that Kabul does not fall. Hence the extra troops. They are not going to invade the NWFP by any stretch of imagination.

    After the debacle of the Iraq war , no US administration (especially not a Democratic one) will ever want to get involved in a situation that has no clearly defined positive outcome and is going to involve heavy US casualties.

    The calls for retreat will ultimately come down hard on Obama. Over the last 5 years, I had an opportunity to get a day to day view of US public reaction to casualties in the Iraq war – they just dont have the stomach for it. And US political leadership consists mostly of people who don’t have the spine for a war – let alone for a long and tough one.

    These visions of a “MacArthur” like figure for Pakistan discounts the democratic will of the Pakistani people – they would much rather have the status quo today than have an American General overseeing the “rebuilding” of their country. Just not happening. This does not mean that they dont want Pakistan to reform – it just means that they will be the ones that are in charge of the reformation process ( if that ever happens) – and they most definitely dont want an American General overseeing that process.

    I have followed this blog because it attempts to pragmatically view the problems facing Indian polity. What you describe here,is simply not feasible no matter how well intentioned it may be.

    In my humble opinion, India has two options – offer military help to President Karzai – of course this will only complicate US efforts – as they now have to spend time convincing paranoid Pakis that this is not an anti-Pakistan move.

    The second option is for India to ready itself to the distinct possibility that the US retreats in the next 3 years. This is of course the least palatable outcome for us. But at this point it also happens to be the most distinct one.

    Dont be surprised if the US agrees to a Pakistani plan to have the Taliban “share power” with the Karzai Government – followed by guarantees that they will not allow AQ style activities any more in either Afghanistan or on the border with Pakistan and in Pakistan itself.

    Unless the safe havens in the NWFP are destroyed, the status quo does not change. I dont see the US having the gumption to do anything like that – the closest that they can come to is “drone attacks” over the last 12 months – attacks that can only achieve so much and have severe limitations. Not to mention more angst among the Afghani population.

    So the US is simply going through the motions of demonstrating to its people that “it tried hard” to get back on track for Afghanistan. These efforts will be handicapped by Pakistan’s duplicity that will ultimately make the US throw up its hands in despair and start leaving.

    We need to be prepared for this event, even if we hope that it doesnt come to that.

  3. I think a MacArthur style intervention forgets the situation in Japan post-WWII.

    Pakistan is a “functioning” society, a limping society, if you will, that continues to live and work semi-decently, but is dragging its feet.

    Japan was not the same. Japan was utterly brutalized, having the deadliest weapons known to mankind used twice on its soil, beaten on all fronts, and their God-emperor disgraced. This is why MacArthur had free reign.

    I doubt the Pakistanis will be so accommodating.

    Plus, lets consider that Pakistan has ideological friends who can supply them with a variety of things. Japan had no one.

    Although I disagree, I’m glad people are talking about it.

  4. Keshav comments:

    Japan was not the same. Japan was utterly brutalized, having the deadliest weapons known to mankind used twice on its soil, beaten on all fronts, and their God-emperor disgraced. This is why MacArthur had free reign.

    I agree that Japan lost the war and it was severely crippled. But it is worth bearing in mind that it had human capital — sufficient human capital to wage a devastating war against the US. It was not a tin-pot dictatorship. It had visions of world domination. Can we say the same about Pakistan? Has Pakistan built anything on its own?

    You can go around planting seeds and watering them but if all you have on the ground is sand and not soil, you will have fancy little to show for it.

  5. The Telegraph reports that the US administration is through with Hamid Karzai – there could be a new Afghan President after the next election – not that it would change the situation much.

    I have this feeling that India is going to be caught flat footed by the removal of Karzai. He was/is pretty close to New Delhi.

  6. This may appear slightly off-topic in the beginning, but hopefully I’ll make the connection to Pakistan towards the end:

    One fact that often disturbs me is the seeming lack of a powerful counter-ideology to Wahabbism arising from within the Islamic tradition. This, despite repeated assertions by the jihadis that they represent true Islam.

    Whatever be the reason for this (or probably as a result?) too few Muslims of sufficient political and/or intellectual stature among ordinary Muslims condemn the supremacist ideology of these jihadis and openly participate in efforts to eradicate such elements.

    Pakistan’s case appears poignant because 20+ years of Islamization and 5+ years of battling the Taliban could not produce even a single influential ideology that can literally fight the extremists on their own turf.

    Understanding this phenomenon, IMHO, can help us understand what kind of strategies will work in the long term.

  7. Pakistan’s case appears poignant because 20+ years of Islamization and 5+ years of battling the Taliban could not produce even a single influential ideology that can literally fight the extremists on their own turf.

    Actually, this soil did produce a powerful and influential ideology that was the best capable of fighting the extremists. This was the philosophy of “Bharataratna” Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai-khidmatgar movement.

    Even to this day, Pashtuns venerate this movement and its leaders. The descendants of this movement (the Awami National Party) has won all the electoral seats in the NWFP.

    Taliban or violent Islam is just a tactical ploy of the Pakistani army to prevent this Pashtun nationalist movement from getting bigger and spinning out of control.

  8. Jairaj,

    We’ll be making some announcements about the print edition is a few weeks’ time.

  9. @Vakibs:

    FYI, the Swat valley lies in NWFP…

    Even if one accepts that the descendants of the Khudai-khidmatgar movement are indeed as popular in the NWFP as you say, there is still the question: how many – and how influential – are similar (i.e., anti-extremist) movements in the rest of Pakistan? Or in the rest of the Muslim world, for that matter? How many of these have a basis in Islamic tradition?

    My point was that encouraging theologically-inspired “counter-“movements could form part of a counter-jihadi strategy.

  10. MacArthur was a foreign martial law administrator – of course he was going to draft a constitution that reformed Japan to the USA’s liking. You can’t count on a local Pakistani general to do that? That would be like seeking a German Kaiser who could draft Versailles.

  11. Photonman,

    Please refer to local news papers and websites to understand the real Pashtun opinion.

    The Pak military has been engaged in a massive media offensive to equate the Pashtun with the Taliban. It serves the interest of only one entity – the Pakistani union government which refuses to decentralize its powers.

    Of all people, we Indians would be utterly dumb to buy into that propaganda.

    There is a huge chance that Pak army is supporting the Taliban in the Swat valley. Swat is not natural guerilla territory. But unlike Waziristan, Swat is farther away from NATO forces, which will explain why the Taliban-Pak army enclave is regrouping there.

    If the army is really willing, it can take the extremists out very much easily. Instead, they are growing from strength to strength here. And looking at the kind of people these extremists are murdering, they look like political assassinations.

  12. “Pakistan needs a MacArthur”
    —If History has to repeat, then before a MacArthur it needs a dose of Hiroshima, Nagasaki…hmmmm would Karachi, Islamabad be fine….

  13. Atanu Dey, People have the right to know how Gen. McArthur looks like today. I do agree with you that the General could definitely use a shave and looks a bit scruffy.

  14. “A stable, prosperous Pakistan is in India’s Interest” is a formula the US has successfully sold to our – India’s – so-called security analysts and the political leadership. Indeed, a formula is so very convenient when one has no thoughts of one’s own!

    Let us not make a mistake. A stable Pakistan is only in the interest of the US its cronies and China. (It is not their fault if they pursue self-interest. It is ours if we don’t)

    As for India, a Pakistan tottering on the brink of an economic collapse, a Pakistan corroded by internal strife, its aggressive energy sucked up by internal conflict is what is in India’s interest.

    Only such a Pakistan will keep it out of mischief against India and push world powers to emasculate its nuclear capability. Let us not forget that whenever Pakistan has been comparatively stable, its national energy has invariably been focused on India’s destruction. This has been no skin off the collective nose of Western powers and as for China it has meant unalloyed joy.

    Let me hasten to add that I would sincerely want Pakistani masses to live in peace and prosperity. But it is not they who run Pakistan, it is the feudal-military oligarchy that does so. Unless this changes, a divided, impoverished Pakistan imploding on itself is what we should wish for and actively work towards.

    Ravindra Joshi

  15. Dont know when pak indo tension will stop, there relation was very good in last year, may be there are some person who dont want to say us happy and they are creating problems in our way, if you look at history everything is going fine they start local buses, business, exchanging other business and even sports, and now … ??

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