Monthly Archives: November 2012

US & Pakistan: Frenemies?

TITLE OF THE PIECE IS BY THE BLOG. An edited version of this article under a different title ran in a local newspaper.

By: Zafar Hilaly

Over the past few weeks an unusual quiet had descended on the normally animated and frazzled relations between Washington and Islamabad. Missing was the hard talk, the snubs, jibes and cancelled visits and so too gripes of payments withheld (CSF) or pledged (Kerry Lugar) all of which was a welcome change from the earlier goings on.

And, today, the Foreign Minister conveyed more good news. ‘All is well’, she said, triumphantly. We have got ‘over the difficult patch’. ‘Intelligence and military contacts’ have resumed and relations are on an ‘upward trajectory’, so much so, that the two capitals are close to evolving ‘common positions,’ on Afghanistan.


Of course, all that’s so much make believe. Serious differences remain on how the war should be pursued, to what end, for how long and their respective roles. Besides, the damage inflicted on the relationship over the past two years is, frankly, irreparable.

The pall of bitterness caused by Salala, Abbotabad, Raymand Davis and the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul which the Americans laid at our doors, as much as the Haqqanis, will take years to lift.

Good friends have become distant acquaintances. Where once there was fellow feeling there is now suspicion and mistrust. The relationship stands transformed and not for the better. Essentially the two have cut each other adrift.

That said, Ms Khar has reason to be pleased. It is in the interests of both countries, though more so Pakistan’s, to set aside differences for the moment and to cooperate. The Afghan war is winding down and what happens next in Afghanistan is of greater concern to us than the US. It’s important, therefore, we have a seat at the Afghan peace table and a say in the region’s future and that can’t be done by taking on the US, or sulking but by extending our cooperation and being helpful in the search for an agreed peace.

That’s not to say that the US is strong enough to do what it pleases. It needs our cooperation to get out of the Afghan mess. Otherwise we would have been toast long ago. It is only after strenuous US efforts at coercive diplomacy failed, in other words, when Washington discovered that ramped up drone attacks, threats of an aid cut-off, snarling, growling and protruding fangs did not work that it tried a less combative approach.

But that is not to say it will not try again. Only a few days before Ms Khar’s rosy view of US-Pak relations Panetta’s speech at the Centre for a New American Security in Washington restated American unhappiness with Pakistan.

When asked about the chances of America prevailing in Afghanistan Panetta replied, ‘success in Afghanistan is dependent on having a Pakistan that is willing to confront terrorism on their side of their border and prevent safe havens.’

In short, the Afghan Taliban, who are America’s enemies are terrorists and Pakistan, by not taking them on, is at fault. As it happens, Pakistanis do not consider the Afghan Taliban terrorists nor do they consider enemies of America, or friends of America, for that matter, as their enemies or friends. Pakistanis view the Haqqanis as Afghan nationalists fighting to be rid of American occupation. And consider it folly to take them on merely to please America; anyway, Pakistan has its hands full coping with threats posed by the Pakistani Taliban and India.

And if the Afghan Taliban, of which the Haqqanis are a leading element, are terrorists, why does America want to engage with them; and why do American envoys praise Pakistan for releasing a number of detained Afghan Taliban if they are ‘terrorists.’

As for Panetta’s belief that America would by now have ‘completed its job’ of eliminating the Taliban but for the safe havens in Pakistan, that’s absurd. There are no safe havens in the west, north and east of Afghanistan and yet Taliban activity has picked up. Nor near Kabul, which is nearly 200 kilometers from the Pakistan border, and where Taliban attacks are most frequent and intense.

Far better then, that Panetta heed his own advice and ‘focus on developing a force in Afghanistan that’s able to provide security and can establish operational capability to confront threats on the Afghan side of the border.’ And, ‘have a regime in Kabul that can govern itself, that can move away from the corruption, that can, in fact, have the capability to provide the kind of governance that you need in order to truly secure that country and govern that country for the future,’ although that is not even remotely on the cards.

Panetta’s speech did not mention what would happen if American forces were to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, as they intend to which is going to prove yet another cause for intense friction in the region.

American analysts (Kimberly and Frederick Kagan) in a closely argued article entitled, ‘Why US troops must stay in Afghanistan,’ fired the first salvo in what, I suspect, will be a fierce new debate within America and internationally between countries, like India, who wish America to retain a sizable US presence in Afghanistan and others, like Pakistan and Iran, who would be happier if the US departed lock, stock and barrel. Ironically, this position is now strongly endorsed by the New York Times (29/11/12)

Contending that for America to leave without retaining the option of conducting counter terror operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan would be irresponsible, the Kagans conclude: “We must either stabilize Afghanistan at this minimum level (68,000 troops) or abandon the fight against al Qaeda and its allies in South Asia. Any alternative light foot print strategy is a dangerous mirage’.

In fact, the contrary is true. An American presence will not only foreclose the possibility of any agreement with the Afghan Taliban but also guarantee the continuation of an unwinnable war; enhance the prospects of a revival of Taliban- al Qaeda ties, as the Taliban traditionally welcome all comers wanting to help in a jihad and further destabilize Pakistan. The fact is that America can no more stabilize Afghanistan by staying on than a fox can a chicken coop by sitting near the door.

The better option for America, although it is one on which the window is fast closing, is to take advantage of the current Pakistani regime’s eagerness to preserve the American alliance, however frayed and battered because no future government, even if by some miracle it is another Zardari led coalition, will be as well disposed to Washington’s viewpoint. No Pakistan government can withstand the hemorrhaging of its popularity by supporting a large US presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and thereby prolong a war now considered the fount of all Pakistan’s woes.

For Panetta to blame Pakistan for America’s failure in Afghanistan is unconvincing. Pakistan made some mistakes but America and Obama, whose war it became, made many more the chief one being to bank on Petraeus, a phony general who led them deeper into a phony war much as many of us had predicted at the time.

In refashioning American policy towards Pakistan, American policy makers, says Michael Klugerman of the Woodrow Wilson Centre, should bear in mind a number of key lessons among which are that limited opportunities for cooperation with official Pakistan should be seized and coercive diplomacy shunned. To my mind one more lesson that also needs learning is that no quarrel ought ever to be converted into a policy.

Using these recommendations as a yardstick to measure the success or otherwise of current US policy we discover the policy falls woefully short on all counts. The future of the relationship, therefore, sadly, seems more threatening than inviting notwithstanding the glowing picture Ms Khar has presented of a period in time when our relations will prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

The Article was shared by the author directly . The writer has been a former Ambassador of Pakistan.


India’s ambitions to encircle Pakistan

A Pakpotpourri Exclusive
Asif Haroon Raja
India is largest in size and population and militarily and economically the strongest country in South Asia. Indian Army of 1.4 million with 34 combat divisions is the third largest in the world and Indian air force and navy too are formidable. India has made its standing in the world because of its geo-strategic importance and huge economic market. Diplomatically it is well placed in the world comity of nations and enjoys best of relations with world powers as well as with the Muslim world. Till 1990 it was strategic partner of former Soviet Union. After latter’s demise India snuggled into the lap of USA and became its strategic partner but without damaging its relations with Russia. It also developed close ties with Israel which has over a period of time become India’s biggest arms supplier. India then mended fences with China by pushing border dispute in Himalayan region to the back-burner and promoted trade. India got closer to Iran when Afghanistan was under the rule of Taliban and Afghan Northern Alliance (NA) leadership had taken refuge in Tehran. However, Afghanistan under anti-India and pro-Pakistan Taliban rule was a huge loss for India. In anticipation of a regime change in Kabul, it started providing full support to NA leaders during their period of exile. India is now a strategic partner of Afghanistan where Pakistan’s influence has diminished considerably.
In marked contrast to its high standing across the globe where it shows a humane face and claims to be the champion of democracy and secularism, India doesn’t enjoy good reputation within South Asia where its interests clash with neighboring countries. It has used Chankyan tactics to deceive, beguile or blackmail its adversaries or has used force to browbeat the smaller states and make them submit to its wishes. Among its neighbors, Pakistan is its arch rival since it refuses to accept India’s supremacy and wants relationship on equal basis. India has still not reconciled with the existence of Pakistan and keeps hatching conspiracies and even going to war to undo Pakistan.
Out of 13 Corps, seven Indian Corps are deployed against Pakistan. Majority of its airbases are also poised against Pakistan and its Navy is geared toward blocking Karachi in the event of war. Besides equipping its forces with latest weaponry and technology, India is refurbishing the obsolete military equipment with US-Israel efforts. Indian defence budget is increasing annually at an alarming rate. India has since long been aspiring to turn Pakistan into a captive Indian market and to encircle Pakistan. It has partially encircled Pakistan after occupying two-thirds Kashmir, which overlooks AJK, and Siachen Glacier which dominates Gilgit-Baltistan, and substantially enhancing its naval presence in the Indian Ocean to turn Arabian Sea as its exclusive domain so as to quarantine Pakistan. After opening Pakistan specific consulates in Afghanistan and in Iranian provinces bordering Pakistan for the purposes of sabotage and subversion, and helping Iran in building Chahbahar Port and linking it with Indian constructed Highway Delaram-Zaranj in Afghanistan, its strategic encirclement plan is near completion.    
Creation of Pakistan from within the womb of Indian Union on August 14, 1947 was the biggest shock inflicted upon the Brahman elites of India. Pakistan’s survival and progress traumatized them further and to lessen their anguish they keep hatching conspiracies to impede and possibly block all avenues of progress and at an opportune time deliver a knockout blow. India supported Pakhtunistan stunt espoused by Afghanistan. It was essentially its quest for security against the vastly superior India harboring hegemonic ambitions, unfriendly Afghanistan and not so friendly USSR which motivated Pakistan to join western pacts and seek US military assistance.     
Pakistan has on number of occasions gone out of the way to throw away the baggage of animosity with India and to make a fresh start. Ignoring the wrongs of India, Quaid-e-Azam had made an offer to forget the past and live as peaceful neighbors and to jointly work towards improving the quality of life of common people. His offer was spurned by Nehru and Indian forces forcibly occupied two-thirds Kashmir in October 1947. Kashmir thus became a bone of contention and a major cause of never-ending antagonism. FM Ayub Khan made an offer of joint defence which was also brushed aside by Nehru. ZA Bhutto agreed to Indira Gandhi’s suggestion of bilateral-ism in the 1972 Simla Conference but India exploited it by preventing third party mediation/facilitation and putting Kashmir issue in a cold storage.
Gen Ziaul Haq offered umpteen proposals to make South Asia nuclear free zone but India paid no heed to any. Benazir Bhutto went to the extent of providing list of Sikh leaders engaged in Khalistan movement but she failed to appease Rajiv Gandhi. Nawaz Sharif too tried hard to find an amicable solution to the chronic dispute of Kashmir though composite dialogue and to improve Indo-Pak relations but could make no headway due to Indian leaders rigid stance that Kashmir is integral part of India. Gen Musharraf crossed all limits to appease India by suggesting a solution outside the realm of UN Resolutions but he couldn’t bring any change in India’s uncompromising stand. The current regime is also following the policy of appeasement but has failed to solicit positive response from India. Rather, India has all along maintained a belligerent posture and on several occasions Indian military might got deployed along the border and came close to an all-out war.
India has gone to war with Pakistan five times including two limited conflicts in Rann of Katch and Kargil. In 1971, aided by USSR, India succeeded in truncating Pakistan but when it found that Pakistan refused to become its satellite, its infamous RAW recommenced its covert war to weaken other parts of Pakistan and also accelerated its force modernization program with emphasis on mechanization of ground forces and upgrading its naval and air arms with the help of USSR.
Sindh was chosen as the next target of subversion after East Pakistan. One reason of picking up Sindh was the importance of Karachi with lone seaport and economic hub of Pakistan. Its covert operations succeeded in accentuating antagonism between old and new Sindhis and thus creating urban-rural divide in Sindh. 1973 Baloch insurgency in Balochistan was supported by USSR, Afghanistan and India. When Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan in 1979 and the US and Pakistan became strategic allies to confront the Soviet threat, India’s RAW joined hands with KGB and KHAD to carryout subversive activities in Pakistan. The MRD movement in rural Sindh was also supported by India. Alignment with USA from 1991 onward enabled India to spoil Pak-US relations.
Strategic alliance with the sole super power in the aftermath of 9/11 is helping India in fulfilling its grandeur plans to become a regional and a world power and to keep the dispute of Kashmir on the back burner. Considering Pakistan to be the only stumbling block in her way to achieve her ambitions, she considered occupation of Afghanistan by USA and its allies in November 2001 and establishment of a pro-India regime in Kabul together with ongoing war on terror an ideal opportunity to encircle Pakistan and force it to give up Kashmir and accept India’s hegemony, or else balkanize it or remove it from the world map. Above all, it opened the avenues for India to regain its lost influence in Afghanistan and to further expand it and become a key player.    
Notwithstanding that acquisition of nuclear and missile capability by Pakistan has greatly minimized the risk of war with India; however, nuclear Pakistan has earned perpetual hostility of India, Israel and USA. News ways are now being devised to disable our nuclear program without having to wage a war. While continuing to procure latest state-of-art weapons from all quarters, India vociferously objects to any effort by Pakistan to procure its modest defence needs from any country and the west lends receptive ears to its laments. In order to offset Pakistan’s nuclear strategic deterrence, India has ventured upon its Cold Start Doctrine which initially envisaged 7-8 self-containing battle groups but has now been increased it to 15 groups. Indian hackers tried to hack secrets of Army Exercise Azm-e-Nao III, a response action to Cold Start, and succeeded partially. Water war and now the economic war to supplement covert war are part of India’s overall scheme to isolate Pakistan and make it irrelevant. It is desperate to get land access to Afghanistan through Pakistan.
Pakistan should offset India’s nefarious encirclement plan by disagreeing to grant land route to India through Wagah border for its contemplated trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics and that too without resolving core disputes. Our military responses to Cold Start will have to be rehashed at the earliest.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.

No Nishan-e-Haider for Soldiers of War on Terror

This is a cross post from:

Pakistan has lost about 40,000 people–soldiers and civilians combined since 9/11. Since then, Pakistan military claims at every international forum it is actively engaged in fight with the Taliban and al-Qaeda to regain the state’s writ on FATA, almost equal to Belgium in land area while its population is more than Georgia. The enemies-Taliban and al-Qaeda, killed 100s of the troops in the line of duty and beheaded some to terrify the generals.
But–there comes a ‘but’–the military has not recognized the valor of the troops fighting the ‘War on Terror’ for the last more than 10 years on the most difficult terrain in the toughest phase of the country history. There is no ‘Nishan-e-Haider’ (NeH)–the most prestigious military medal so far, for the bravery of a single living or fallen soldier.
The highest military medal ‘Nishan-e-Haider’ is given to a soldier who shows unprecedented  heroism in extremely dangerous circumstances on the battlefield. The military has till this day recognized its soldiers’ heroism in their fight against its self-defined arch rival India. There are 10 lucky soldiers who had been awarded with the NeH, though  posthumously, for their bravery against the enemy. (One other soldier had been awarded for his valor and had been given Hilal-e-Kashmir, equivalent to NeH.) All of them fought against India.
The NeH receivers include soldiers of almost each war and skirmish with India. Starting from 1948, soldiers who fought in 1958, 1965, 1971 and Kargal skirmish in 1999–the heroism has been recognized via honoring the best soldier with the NeH.
The country’s longest and most crucial “War on Terror” with the most dangerous enemy who defies the Geneva Convention has not been recognized in terms of honoring the soldiers fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda in Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur. Ask a Pakistani today and s/he would not be able to recall a single name of one brave soldier who fell in the line of duty in fight against Taliban. Nor ordinary Pakistanis know about a single story of a  victory at a battlefield against militants in the over10-year long war. They would, rather, recall several names and battle stories of the Taliban or al-Qaeda, thanks to Pakistan’s Jehadi media and extremists’ propaganda.
Who loses at the end? Pakistan military and all forces who want a strong Pakistan. The military is accused for not owning the ‘War on Terror’ by not honoring its own men. The outer world too is suspicious of Pakistan. And the fight between military and extremists looks jaundiced in appearance to its critics with every passing day.