Defeating Indo-US alliance


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
“We don’t have to wait for the verdict of future generations. We know what happened in our own time. We know the suffering this war has caused and will continue to cause.”
– Henry Porter
A historical opportunity knocked at Pakistan’s door for it to emerge as the leading world nation in shaping global conflict management and resolution by peaceful and political means. The day was September 13, 2001. The caller to Pakistan’s military ruler General Musharraf was General Powell, the then US Secretary of State. Powell wanted Pakistan’s political and military collaboration for an American war on Afghanistan. The Pakistani dictator agreed instantly and unilaterally without consulting a single soul. Consequently, because of that flawed judgment, both Pakistan and Afghanistan are faced with massive destruction that has been unleashed on the two nations. On top of that, a US-West geopolitical alliance has taken shape in the region with a new political actor calling the shots: India has assumed a strategic partnership with the US-NATO that is exclusively detrimental to Pakistan’s interests and poses an existentialist threat to this country.
Upon reflection, this is what Musharraf should have said to Powell: Mr Secretary, we live in a different world today: a world that prefers peace over war, a world that prefers conflict resolution by peaceful political means. We are with you in a bid for a peaceful political initiative to sort out this problem. But my nation will not allow me to go to war against a brotherly Muslim nation which is our next door neighbour. I assure you that your legitimate interests will be served by peaceful political means. We look forward to working with you for a peaceful resolution through mutual dialogue and deliberations.
Had Musharraf acted in wisdom, with a visionary strategic plan and judicious political discourse, Pakistan today would have emerged as a leading player in geopolitical mediation and arbitration. But the former general acted from his personal weakness for power and wealth. As a result, contemporary Pakistan is on the verge of a total political collapse.
Ironically, the incumbent political leadership in Pakistan is still following Musharraf’s flawed legacy. The lack of political insightfulness and colossal misguided ego-centric failures of the Musharraf’s era are quite evident in the power corridors and political conduct of the present leadership in Islamabad. Consequently, Pakistan is faced with an uncertain future - an expanding encirclement threatening its survival: a rising India to the east, uncertain relations with Iran because of American-Western pressure and growing Indian influence in Afghanistan to the northwest.
Lucky for the Pakistani nation, another historic opportunity knocks at its door to re-shape geopolitical dynamics in the region and carve a place for itself as a major player in the peace process as an arbitrator in the Afghan conflict and in the overall strategic political dimensions of South Asian politics. In this altering political discourse, Pakistan can defeat India’s designs to relegate it to an absolute subservient role within an Indo-US-NATO hegemony in the region which is also directed at China’s containment. In the process, Pakistan can recover its decades lost sovereignty to conduct itself with complete independence in its foreign policy and geopolitical behaviour. The fresh opportunity that is at Pakistan’s doorstep is this: Obama’s need to win a second term in 2012. He needs Pakistan’s help to scale down the Afghan conflict to a low level intensity and to a political profile that in some way indicates a US-NATO victory. Pakistan must exploit Obama’s political vulnerability in his bid for a second term and manoeuvre itself into a commanding role in the evolving process of Afghan settlement - thereby putting India back into its place of secondary actor - and get itself into the driver’s seat for a Karzai-Taliban rapprochement. But getting India out of the political loop of Afghanistan and the US-initiated military political endgame will not be an easy task. It will require the kind of skilful diplomatic expertise that the incumbent leadership cannot fathom. It is precisely for this reason that Pakistan’s military leadership has stepped in and the Obama administration has given it de facto recognition.
Given the present political ground realities inside and outside the country, what should Pakistan do now to expand its role in the Karzai-Taliban rapprochement process? There are some fundamental perceptions and assumptions that need to be corrected!
First, let us stop pretending that, because of the recent US-Pak dialogue, the US has undergone a change of heart in its strategic objectives in South Asia and the Central Asian States. It is only a tactical move to make Pakistan “feel good” and placate its people. The US will not compromise its Indian alliance (containment of China) for the sake of Pakistani national interests.
Second, let us not believe that the US will walk away from Afghanistan on Obama’s military withdrawal schedule. It still harbours its strategic goals to planned military air force bases in Afghanistan. Until Obama’s re-election is threatened by an Afghanistan stalemate, the US will not alter its longstanding objectives in this region.
Third, let us not assume that India is going to roll back its presence in Afghanistan easily. It has invested heavily in Afghanistan’s infrastructure and political management. India is bound to continue to work for its strategic interests in Afghanistan - one of which is to marginalise Pakistan’s military-political capabilities vis-à-vis India and limit Pakistan’s role in the future US-Indo strategy of the “containment” of China.
Today’s Pakistan is in a very tight spot. And yet, skilful diplomacy and strategic political re-alignments with a number of political forces can make it emerge as a powerful player in the region. So what are the practical steps that Pakistan must take?
> Pakistan should make Obama’s administration understand that without an end to the so-called ‘war on terror’ and a complete withdrawal of occupation forces in Afghanistan, peace and stability will not come to this region. This means that the continued war and occupation of Afghanistan could cost Obama his second term of presidency. On top of that, the Indo-US alliance will further fuel political-military tensions in the region eroding Obama’s popularity in the US and abroad. Hence, there is an urgent need for a political settlement in Afghanistan. And Pakistan’s role at this moment in history is indispensable to resolve the Afghan crisis and, as a result, Obama’s political future.
> Pakistan should demand that the US stop drone attacks on its territory. Already in the US, some legal experts have informed the government that drone attacks against “Pakistani targets and elsewhere” could result in CIA officers being prosecuted for war crimes in the foreign courts. Pakistan should clearly inform the Obama administration that it intends to go to the Hague in case the attacks continue against its citizens. It is an appropriate time that Pakistan exercises its full sovereignty in its political decision making and foreign policy management.
> Finally, defeating India’s Afghan political agenda against Pakistan is fair game. It is important for Pakistan to declare in its foreign policy doctrine that India is its number one adversary - and the international community should be made fully cognisant of it. However, an adversarial relationship does not preclude peaceful co-existence with India. The process of engagement with India will have to entail diplomatic, trade, cultural and communicative dialogue at a far more constructive level. But the first step for Pakistan is to help Karzai in his reconciliation initiative for the inclusion of the Taliban in Afghan political affairs.
That is the trick to end the war and comprehensively defeat the Indo-US alliance in Afghanistan and India’s Afghan-based agenda against Pakistan. We can grab the opportunity - or continue to live under the Indo-US shadow and witness our gradual but sure decline as a nation! The choice is ours!
The writer is an academic, political analyst and conflict-resolution expert.

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