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Sahel to South Asia

The global war on terror has morphed into an international salad bowl with the emergence of a grand arc of instability between the shores of Atlantic to West Asia. Incidentally, it is the geographic space holding the bulk of the Islamic world.

North Africa, West Africa, Middle East and West Asia are simmering with fault line wars; in Nigeria it is the Boko Haram, in Mali and Algeria it is the Twaregs fighting for the Awzad region, Sudan is already split, Libya is burning, Somalia a classic failed state reeling under Al Shabaab; and Yemen, Syria and Iraq have become sectarian battle grounds with turf wars between regional players and their proxies. The post US-Isaf Afghanistan is recovering but facing a new challenge of splinter Taliban groups jockeying for power with news of Isis finding some sympathisers as well.

Pakistan seems to be regaining stability and rolling back the influence of forces of disintegration with Operation Zarb-e-Azb entering the final phase. With the US-Iran rapprochement, a paradigm shift has taken place in the Middle East. The new Eurasian block lead by China and Russia is quickly forming a new strategic colossus; this strategic arrangement has given hope to the non-western world to get rid of US-led western hegemony and solve their problems with more economic cooperation and less militarism. China’s strategic thrust to connect the Eurasian land mass through economic corridors and silk routes is reflected by the CPEC.

The new jargon of ‘Sahel to South Asia’ comes at a time when the US-led global war on terror has effectively destabilised most of the Islamic world; the perplexed governments and people of Middle East and North Africa are reaping the harvest of strategic chaos ushered by proponents of the Greater Middle East and Arab Spring. The Iraqi test lab has given birth to tragic wars in the entire region; Saddam Hussain’s prophesy of the Mother of all Battles (Um al Maarik) has become a bitter truth with the Shia-Sunni conflict dotting the greater part of the Middle East.

Have Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen become more democratic now? And why is a tsunami of refugees from these countries engulfing the shores of Mediterranean and Europe? These are some of the questions that need to be answered by policymakers in the west who socially engineered and experimented with the chaos strategy.

Before Pakistan jumps into this quagmire created by someone else, there is a need to carry out a dispassionate analysis of the past and present and how the Middle East and North Africa transformed into an arc of chaos and instability. The US-led ‘Sahel to South Asia’ is conceptualised as an alliance between states with serious challenges within the perceived alliance. Apparently it could house India, Iran, Pakistan, EU and some splinter groups arrayed against Isis in the Middle East and funnily enough Al-Qaeda as well. China and Russia have been deliberately kept out of the perceived block.

The Pakistani military already has its hands full in the domestic war against terrorist networks, their supporters and facilitators. Our principled stand in avoiding getting into Yemen was a result of cool and calculated strategic analysis. Why should the Sahel to South Asia be an exception? Some have argued that Pakistan will keep getting the Coalition Support Fund and also regain relevance in the western capitals.

What an argument. Can Pakistan get away with domestic backlash for this new and complex war in distant lands? What about our traditional allies in the Middle East, China and Russia? Is the CSF more than the Gulf oil and jobs of the expats from Pakistan in the Middle East? What kind of negative fallout could this new alliance have on the CPEC?

The above-mentioned questions need a lot of deliberation on the part of our Foreign Office and the military establishment as well as parliament.

Another factor is the option of revitalising the OIC (which appears to be gradually losing any relevance); Pakistan’s choice to become part of the Sahel to South Asia alliance may well be the end of the OIC as a forum for meeting the challenges faced by the Islamic world at present. Can the fragmented leadership of the Islamic world rise to the occasion and come up with creative ideas to address the challenge of terrorism and Isis?

Why should the Islamic world get further divided by the architects of strategic chaos who have destabilised it in the first place? Why can’t countries like Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, KSA, Malaysia and Indonesia sit on one table and reflect upon the return of peace to the fragmented lands of Islam? If the Islamic world realises the Isis threat to be real, what stops it from developing a political and military alliance to defeat this threat?

The Islamic world faces daunting challenges like social rejection, economic disenfranchisement, and sectarianism. The marginalised masses and demoralised youth is critically mislead by media war and propaganda. Since the leadership and the elite in the Islamic world have been apathetic to the human misery and economic deprivation of the common people, radicalisation becomes an easier option for the disenchanted youth. What the Islamic world needs is a Marshall Plan for the downtrodden – not a new military alliance built by the architects of strategic chaos.

I have dreamt of a new dawn in the Islamic world – an OIC meet by the heads of the Islamic countries for two months right in Tehran and Riyadh. Let the swords be put back and wisdom prevail before the Islamic world loses the lustre of civilisation for good.

The writer is a defence analyst based at

Lahore. Email: waqarkauravi@gmail.com

Waqar K. Kauravi, "Sahel to South Asia," The News. 2015-09-30.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social crises , ocial change , Economic aspects , Economic Corridor , Al-Qaeda , Zarb-e-Azb , Terrorism , North Africa , West Africa , Middle East , West Asia , Middle East. Iraq , Libya , Syria , Yemen , CPEC , OIC