Washington is losing the game in Pakistan

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by Sikh_warrior, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. Sikh_warrior

    Sikh_warrior Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    Patrick Seale write: High-handed action within the country is steadily pushing Islamabad into China's realm of influence.

    The US and Pakistani governments seem to be heading for a divorce full of recriminations. So great are the divergent objectives and lack of trust between them that Pakistan seems to be contemplating moving out of America's orbit altogether and into China's embrace.

    America's decision — without informing Pakistan or seeking its help — to send a hit-team deep inside Pakistani territory to kill Osama Bin Laden may have proved to be the last straw.

    Added to this, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed fulsome praise for China on a visit to Beijing in May. China, he said, was a source of inspiration for the Pakistani people, while Chinese premier Wen Jiabao declared that ‘China and Pakistan will remain for ever good neighbours, good friends.'

    Pakistan also wants China to build a naval base and maintain a regular naval presence at the port at Gwadar. This has alarmed the US, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Worried at Pakistan's drift away from Washington, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton hurried to Pakistan for a few hours on May 27 in an attempt to patch things up — but apparently with little success.

    Violation of sovereignty

    CIA missile attacks by unmanned drones against alleged ‘terrorist' targets inside Pakistan invariably end up killing civilians, and arousing furious anti-American sentiment. The Pakistan parliament has denounced these strikes as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and demanded a permanent halt to them.

    At the heart of the US-Pakistani estrangement lies a profound disagreement about everything to do with Afghanistan, especially how to deal with radical factions, such as the Taliban. Not content with having eliminated Bin Laden, the US wants to hunt down and destroy any remnants of Al Qaida and other militant groups, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan — and even in places further afield like Yemen. Obsessed with the danger of terrorist violence, the US has been unwilling to recognise that Arab and Muslim hostility to the US springs mainly from its own catastrophic wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan itself, with their heavy toll of civilian casualties, and its blind support for Israel.

    Suspecting Pakistan of complicity with radicals, the US insists that it should join in America's own anti-terrorist campaigns. It would like Pakistan to break relations with Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban; with the Jalaluddin Haqqani network (now run by Jalaluddin's sons, Sirajuddin and Badruddin); and with the Lashkar-e-Taiba — a militant group considered responsible for the Mumbai attack of 2008.

    But Pakistan sees the matter very differently. Created as a refuge for Indian Muslims after the 1947 partition of the subcontinent, it feels under permanent threat — mainly from India. Many in its government consider that its national interest demands that it maintain close links with the Taliban and other radical networks as useful allies once US forces go home.

    Pakistan is determined to exercise a degree of control over Afghanistan for two reasons. First, to prevent the realisation of the Pashtun dream of a ‘Greater Pakhtunistan' astride the Durand Line, since this would mean the loss of Pakistan's Pashtun-inhabited North-West Frontier Province. The fact that Afghanistan still refuses to recognise the validity of the Durand Line — which divides the Pashtuns — keeps such Pakistani fears alive.

    Pakistan is still smarting from the loss of East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — in the 1971 war. It dreads further amputations of its territory.

    The second reason why Pakistan is determined to keep Afghanistan within its own orbit is to prevent it falling under India's influence, as this would result in Pakistan being encircled. The US-Pakistani disagreement over Afghanistan serves to reinforce a deep-seated Pakistani suspicion that America is not a faithful partner but one which abandons its allies once they cease to be useful.

    The paradox is that Pakistan has in recent years been pressured to do America's bidding in making war on militant groups — in its own country if not in Afghanistan — and has paid dearly for it. Not only have military operations against these militants been extremely costly for Pakistan in men and treasure, but they have also provoked lethal retaliation from groups such as Tahrik-e-Taliban in the form of suicide bombings and other attacks. Pakistan's internal security situation is now dire, and its economy gravely damaged. It is wrestling with a soaring budget deficit, frequent power cuts and a growing danger of political and social chaos. Minister of Interior Rehman Malek concluded that the country was in ‘a state of war'.

    Pakistan thus finds itself under pressure from the United States to fight the militants, and under attack from the militants for waging America's war for it. The US gives Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, $3 billion (Dh11.03 billion) in annual aid, rather less than it gives to Israel, with a population of 7 million. Little wonder that some leading Pakistanis have come to think that their country would be better off without the exorbitant encumbrance of this American connection.

    Patrick Seale is a commentator and author of several books on Middle East affairs.


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