When jihad backfires: Pak plays a losing game with India

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by utubekhiladi, May 17, 2012.

  1. utubekhiladi

    utubekhiladi The Preacher Elite Member

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    Last month, a pamphlet issued in the name of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed surfaced in Karachi. It took the form of an ‘open letter’ from Saeed – in his capacity as the head of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, an umbrella gathering of mullahs and assorted hotheads – to Pakistan’s parliamentarians, who were at that time debating the merit of reopening supply routes to NATO convoys for their anti-terrorism operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.

    In that ‘open letter’ (translated from Urdu by The Filter Coffee blog here), Saeed virtually held out a veiled threat of terrorist attacks on NATO convoys, whose supply routes in Pakistan had been closed down after the Salala border incident last year in which Pakistani Rangers were accidentally killed in NATO fire.

    In language calculated to appeal to the rabble that he leads, Saeed painted an alarmist scenario of US intentions to “colonise” Pakistan through the supply convoys, and of India’s “security threats”.

    While Saeed may have wanted the NATO supply chains closed, the Pakistani army and government has no such desire. Reuters
    Right after the Salala incident, Pakistan witnessed angry protests directed principally at the US, and Pakistani officials and the military sought to milk it for what it was worth. They demanded an official apology from the US, which never came, as a precondition for reopening the routes. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar conveyed her country’s “sense of anger” to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    In recent days, however, Khar – and the entire Pakistani establishment – has been singing a pacifist tune. Pakistan, she says, “wants to move beyond the Salala incident and improve ties with the US.”

    The government has virtually given its consent to the reopening of the NATO supply routes. In return, President Asif Ali Zardari has secured an invitation to a NATO conference in Chicago over the weekend to decide the future of Afghanistan. With the flick of a switch, Pakistan-US relations appear to have been “normalised.”

    A decision so momentous could not have been taken without the consent of the Pakistani military. But how did this change of hearts come about?

    One obvious explanation of course is that money talks. The Pakistani military and the government have in recent times felt the squeeze of the freeze on military and civilian aid, which the US had put in place following the strains in relations. And, once the supply routes are opened, Pakistan will secure a $1.3 billion payout of “coalition support funds” that the US had withheld. The ‘gravy train’ will begin to trundle again.

    Additionally, the Washington Post reports, the Pakistan military itself controls nearly 30 percent of NATO oil tanker contracts, and now stand to rake in the money.

    Throw in the other freeloaders on the NATO ‘gravy train’ – from black marketeers who are waiting to plunder NATO supply trucks to even militants in tribal areas who extract “protection money” from the freight contractors – and the constituency of those who want to see the supply routes reopened is seen to have many stakeholders.

    So, if Hafiz Saeed doesn’t want the supply routes opened, he will effectively have to take on the Pakistani military, his principal patrons. Good luck with that.

    Yet, the decision to reopen the supply routes wasn’t so much an exercise of free will on Pakistan’s part. As Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar noted, Pakistan was at risk of facing international sanctions if it continued to block supply routes. And the government and the military were experiencing the pangs from the suspension of US aid, particularly given the mounting security costs; an economy in shambles too has cramped the policy space.

    In a larger sense, too, Pakistan really had no options because it had overplayed its hand – a consideration that has even propelled it to reach out to India, with proposals to “demiltiarise” the Siachen Glacier and to accord it Most Favoured Nation status for trade.

    As commentator Ejaz Haider noted recently, Pakistan pushed itself into a corner in its relations with the United States. “Pakistan has a litany of complaints against the US; the US has an equally long list of complaints against Pakistan. In such a situation, the more powerful side carries the narrative and makes it stick.”

    Which is why US’ complaints got a world audience – because most, if not all, others also share its threat perceptions and agree that there is a terrorist threat that needs to be neutralised and the epicentre of it is in Pakistan’s ‘badlands’.

    Haider points to the irony that while Pakistan has relied on American aid over the decades to fortify itself against India, it is today compelled to seek peace with India – because its relations with the US had turned sour.

    This provides India an opportunity to secure its interests vis-a-vis Pakistan since it can negotiate from a position of strength. For all of Pakistan’s efforts over the decades to tear Kashmir’s soul, it is Pakistan that today stands on the threshold of dismemberment, with Balochi separatism acquiring a keen edge in recent times. And for all of Pakistan’s efforts to spread terror across India, its infamy as the epicentre of terrorism worldwide stands exposed before the world.

    Indian and Pakistani officials are to meet next month for talks on the Siachen Glacier. The quest for peace in the subcontinent of course has much to commend, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of trading away our strengths.

    The arc of history is bending slowly but decisively in India’s favour – simply because Pakistan is self-destructing under the weight of its own jihadi-inspired madness. We don’t have to do anything dramatic to secure our interests on our terms. The only thing we need to ensure in the short term is that we don’t squander away our hard-won gains.

    When jihad backfires: Pak plays a losing game with India | Firstpost
     
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