Sleeping with the enemy in order to disarm him

ajtr

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K Subrahmanyam: Sleeping with the enemy in order to disarm him

The US may need to develop a closer relationship with Pakistan to deal with Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism, but it should take India into confidence

The Pakistan-US strategic dialogue held in Washington DC on 24-25 March has generated a mix of hope and despair in India. There is some hope in US bonafides vis-a-vis India, as the US was firm in advising Pakistan to deal with the water issue with India according to the procedure laid down in the Indus waters treaty, refused to change its stand on the Kashmir issue and just listened to Pakistan's case on its having a nuclear deal similar to the one India has with the US.

But there is despair on the possibility of the Pakistan Army coming up with more tricks to avoid taking action against the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), considered Pakistan’s asset in its strategic arsenal against India. Having persuaded the Pakistan Army to initiate action against three of the five jehadi organisations listed by President Obama as entities to be disrupted, dismantled and defeated, the US administration is generous with its praise of the Pakistani Army. The three are the Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda. The Pakistan Army has given no indication of its intention to act against LeT or the Haqqani network. It is particularly puzzling to the Indians that in the immediate wake of David Headley's plea bargain establishing the continuing operations of the LeT in India and the US, and its close links with ex-army officers and the ongoing attempts at terrorism on the US mainland by jehadis associated with LeT, the American side has chosen to adopt a muted stand on the issue of LeT.

There is a widespread view in India that just as President Pervez Musharraf joined the US in October 2001 in Operation Enduring Freedom to save the Taliban and al Qaeda from destruction, the present alignment of Pakistani Army policy with US policy may be designed to save and preserve the LeT and the Haqqani network for future terrorist use. Already, a representative of extremist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an ally of Haqqani, has contacted Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. Hekmatyar is a long time favourite of the Pakistan Army and the bete noire of the US. This development raises fears that the Pakistan Army is planning to install its henchmen in Kabul when the Americans start drawing down their forces in Afghanistan in 2011.

The flip-flop of the Americans in respect of allowing Indian authorities access to David Headley is yet another issue which makes many Indians wonder whether we are back in the days of the Bush-Musharraf era, when the US looked away as General Musharraf gave a safe haven to the al Qaeda and Taliban, nurtured the LeT and allowed all of them to strengthen themselves. President Obama, in his speech on 27 March, referred to the mixed record of those years and promised to hold the Pakistanis accountable. However, the US authorities, now looking away from lack of action against the LeT, would appear to indicate that the Pakistani Army may find it easy to repeat their past tricks. This is the basis of Indian despair vis-a-vis the Americans.

The US-Pakistan joint statement released at the end of the dialogue said the two leaders, Hillary Clinton and Shah Mohammed Qureshi, reiterated that the core foundations of this partnership are shared democratic values, mutual trust and mutual respect. The irony of this assertion could not have been lost on those present, especially the Pakistanis. It has been well publicised in the Pakistani media that General Kayani summoned all the concerned Pakistani secretaries to the government to the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi to finalise the brief for the Washington conference. The Army Chief recently extended the tenures of the ISI chief Shuja Pasha, present in the conference, and a number of corps commanders exercising the powers Musharraf used to have in his combined role as Army Chief and President. Pakistan would appear to be back in the days of Benazir, when she provided a civilian façade to a government in which the Army wielded the real power. The Pakistani joke is that either a general sits on the chair of power or just stands behind it.

In the joint statement the United States re-affirmed its resolve to assist Pakistan to overcome socio-economic challenges by providing technical and economic assistance and to enable Pakistan to build its strengths by optimal utilisation of its considerable human and natural resources and entrepreneurial skills. The tenor of the statement indicated a long-term US commitment to Pakistan’s socio-economic development. In that event, in 2011 in the wake of the US draw-down of forces from Afghanistan, the US will be present in Pakistan with commitment to a long-term development programme and possibly a significant military assistance programme as well. In that sense the situation will be radically different from the one in 1994, when the untethered Pakistan army could walk in and establish Taliban rule in Kabul. One expects the US will simultaneously have an equally significant political and economic presence in Afghanistan in the withdrawal phase, with a diminishing military presence. In those circumstances, will the US permit Pakistan to reinstall Pakistan-pasand elements in dominant power in Kabul, as seemed to be envisaged in the Pakistani as well as many sections of the Indian establishment?

There is no disputing that the US has to have a strategy of developing a closer relationship with Pakistan, to deal with Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism. In spite of the 9/11 plot being hatched in Pakistan by a Pakistani and Pakistani al Qaeda, and LeT unsuccessfully (so far) targeting the US homeland for terroristic acts, the US has been extraordinarily patient in dealing with Pakistan, since Pakistani army-sponsored terrorism is shielded by its nuclear arsenal and its implicit threat of letting the weapons fall into the hands of terrorists. The US strategy appears to be like that of Delilah — sleeping with the enemy to disarm him. India cannot object to that. But since India is the primary victim of Pakistani terrorism, if India is not taken into confidence in regard to their broad strategy vis-a-vis Pakistan, in the absence of cent percent trust and communication India may be compelled to act, in case there is another major terrorist provocation in ways that may not be entirely in alignment with US strategy. US authorities should bear this in mind.
 

ajtr

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Taking us for granted, not again

For as long as I can remember, two distinct emotions have characterised the educated Indian’s response to foreign policy. The first is deep affection for American democracy and way of life. Even when relations between India and the US have hit diplomatic lows, nothing has dented the warmth with which American popular culture is regarded in India. We watch American movies, we wear American clothes, we follow American trends and we want to educate our kids in America.
The second emotion is a keenly developed sense of national pride. Few countries are as fiercely patriotic as India is. (Well, actually, perhaps America is too.) It could be the centuries of colonial subjugation that are responsible but Indians watch out keenly for our national interest and respond angrily to the merest slight or perceived injury to our country. We are nobody’s satellite and demand to be treated with respect.
Sometimes, these two emotions are in conflict with each other. In 1971, we felt that the US had ‘tilted’ unfairly towards Pakistan, and had turned a blind eye to the genocide in that country’s eastern wing. Though this did not necessarily reduce our affection for American popular culture, it made a whole generation of Indians suspicious of US foreign policy priorities.
We are still quite far from the 1971 situation but I have a terrible feeling that once again, those two emotions are colliding. Our regard for America is once again in conflict with our national pride. It may be too early to sound the alarm yet but I think that a) America is regarded with much less affection than it was two years ago and b) if things do not change quite substantially in the near future, any Indian government that seeks to further the India-US partnership will face considerable public opposition and deep suspicion.
There are two traditional irritants in the relationship between Washington and Delhi. The first is what India sees as America’s desire to order the world according to its own best interests. For instance, in the 1950s, when Washington asked each country to take sides in the Cold War, the Indian establishment reacted with anger: why should India be forced to get involved in somebody else’s war?
The second is Pakistan, a small country of no great consequence that has always made itself valuable to Washington by serving US interests in third countries. In the 1950s and 1960s, it served as a base for US spy planes as America kept a watch on Russia. In the 1970s, it was America’s gateway to China. (The reason for the Nixon-Kissinger ‘tilt’ towards Islamabad in 1971.) In the 1980s, it became a virtual American aircraft carrier in the battle to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. And so on.

Both irritants have come into play once again. Rightly or wrongly, a perception has developed among educated Indians that America expects India to toe the Washington line on key global issues. For instance, the sub-text to the recent climate change controversy (over which key Indian officials resigned) is the suspicion that India is under pressure to overturn our long-standing policies to suit Washington’s own interests.
Similarly, much of the opposition to the new Nuclear Liability Bill is predicated on the belief (hotly denied by the government) that the legislation is being enacted to insulate large American companies from liability even when the equipment they have supplied costs Indian lives.
There are many other examples of perceived US pressure on the government. Many fears may well be misconceived but they derive their power from a fresh development: a shift in America’s foreign policy to favour Pakistan.
Once again, Pakistan has offered itself as a route to a third country. The US finds itself in a war it cannot win in Afghanistan. The only way it can extricate itself from that mess is by coming to an understanding with the very people that it has been fighting: the Taliban.

It is no secret that the original Taliban was the creation of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and it is widely believed that Pakistan still has leverage with Taliban leaders. Now that US policy is to seek some sort of accommodation with ‘good Taliban’ (whatever that means), Pakistan has two uses. One: it can facilitate an understanding with Taliban leaders and offer some guarantees of stability once the US moves out or scales down its presence in Afghanistan. And two: it can crack down on ‘bad Taliban’ (such as the Pakistan Taliban and those Afghan leaders opposed to Islamabad’s Taliban friends) within Pakistan’s own borders.
In recent months, Pakistan has performed both tasks. Back channel negotiations with ‘good Taliban’ are in progress and the Pakistani army has launched a massive operation against the Taliban while denying safe haven to many of those who are fighting the US in Afghanistan.
From an American perspective, this is invaluable. Not only is the Pakistani government facilitating a face-saving exit from a deeply unpopular war but the Pakistani military seems at last to have found the will to take on Islamists. This accounts for the US’s current love for Pakistan, for the pictures of Hilary Clinton posing cosily with Mehmood Qureshi and for Washington’s praise of Pakistan’s army.
Naturally Islamabad wants payment in return: an India-style nuclear deal, arms to use against India, an ejection of Indians from Afghanistan, some resolution of the Kashmir dispute etc. Washington cannot give the Pakistanis everything they want. But equally, Pakistan has to get something as payment. And that will be at India’s expense.
When you consider President Obama’s options dispassionately you can see why he needs to court Pakistan. But, equally, Washington needs to do something to reassure New Delhi. Instead, America gives the impression that it takes India for granted. The refusal to extradite David Headley and the repeated flip-flops over allowing Indian investigators to question him suggest a complete insensitivity to Indian public sentiment.
In the light of what America is doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it rather seems as though Washington has had a change of heart: why fight a war on terror when you can simply do deals with the terrorists?
It is hard to see why Washington is letting the goodwill it has enjoyed in India over the last few years slip through its fingers. Public suspicion of the US in India has now reached the stage where no matter what the government does — talk to Pakistan, for instance — it is accused of following orders from Washington. These suspicions extend to the ruling party: even Congressmen fear that America has too much leverage over India.
In the short-run, Pakistan and Afghanistan are important to Washington. But in the long-run it is India that America will need if it is to counter China. Washington’s behaviour suggests that it has forgotten that national pride and patriotism are non-negotiable for Indians.
No matter how much affection Indians have for American culture, India is too large and too important to be taken for granted. And Indians have long memories. No snub is ever forgotten.
 

ajtr

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US allays apprehensions, briefs India on Pak talks
NEW DELHI: As the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue and its accompanying hype wound down in Washington, US briefed India about the content and scope of the discussions between the two sides.

US national security adviser, Gen Jim Jones called up Shivshankar Menon, national security adviser, to bring him up to speed on the talks, while US undersecretary William Burns briefed his counterpart, Nirupama Rao. Specifically, the conversations were intended to allay any Indian apprehensions of “secret” understandings reached with Pakistan.

As the joint statement made clear, there was no reference to India or Kashmir in the document. Even on the water issue, the stress was not India, but on domestic water management projects which the US has agreed to help Pakistan with. Pakistan is seriously betting on being the deliverer of US’ changed Af-Pak strategy, by delivering the Taliban as a “credible” negotiating group to Washington. This would be of serious concern to India, which does not believe a “reconciliation” policy is what should be pursued at this point.

This was a point driven home at various meetings by foreign secretary Nirupama Rao during her recent trip to Washington, particularly with the US NSA. In fact, sources said, her visit focused heavily on Af-Pak, Rao articulating India’s concerns and interests. Thus far, the US appears to continue to view events in Afghanistan pretty much the way India does. That, sources said, could change. But on the issue of weapons supplies to Pakistan, Indian objections aside, US is set to deliver F-16 combat aircraft to Pakistan as soon as in the next few months. The new aircraft are expected to have BVR (beyond visual range) capability, and would essentially be force multipliers for the Pakistan military.

India’s objections, said sources, were all valid and acknowledged by the US. But that would not prevent them from continuing with the supplies to Pakistan. India’s real worry is this: the US is unlikely to be able to deliver on many of the crucial demands on Pakistan’s wish-list. To offset that, Washington could increasingly be tempted to keep up the weapon supplies, as a continuing “incentive” for the Pak army.
 

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