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Why break the relationship?

The US agenda with Pakistan pre-9/11 was, in order of priority viz (1) nuclear non-proliferation (2) terrorism and (3) drugs, with the Taliban government in Afghanistan figuring prominently in the last two issues. The reason for our nuclear assets and the means to deliver them is not complicated.

We live in a very tough neighbourhood and our primary threat perception originates from India. Outnumbered and outgunned four to five times in conventional forces and without any strategic depth, we needed an India-specific non-conventional deterrent. India’s other neighbours will confirm that a policy of appeasement never works. According to Churchill, “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last”. Given the will to remain independent, we cannot afford appeasement.

The time lag in building up conventional forces by air from mainland US-led Nato to an enunciated policy of using tactical nuclear missiles as a balancing mechanism against massed Soviet armour if they broke through the Fulda Gap into the German plains. Ensuring mutually assured destruction (MAD) our nuclear capability acts as a deterrent. India has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles as a deterrent to a possible China threat, has Pakistan developed missiles with ranges exceeding targets in India?

During the last few years, while we have denuded our conventional forces on our eastern front in order to reinforce the military effort for COIN operations on our western borders in support of the ‘war against terrorism’.

The major increase in India’s numerical and material strength to its three strike corps parked within hailing distance on our borders, particularity airpower and heliborne troop-lifting capacity on its south-western command, the move of at least two armoured divisions to reinforce the other two strike corps and giving integral mechanical transportation to the infantry complement of the Rapid Divisions is certainly worrying.

If any military analyst can explain India’s ‘Cold Start’, one may be inclined to be less apprehensive about Indian intentions.

Terrorism came to Pakistan as a gift of the Afghan war. Throughout the 80s, Russian KGB in connivance with Afghan Khad (later Wad) and the Indian Research and Analytical Wing (RAW) took active part in terrorist attacks against Pakistan. Bombs exploded in public places in Pakistan, killing and maiming many, sometimes at the rate of more than one a day.

Many Al-Zulfikar camps were openly run in India, for many years the leaders were honoured residents of Soviet-occupied Kabul. Freedom struggles are distinct from terrorism per se. An indigenous uprising that has had ups and downs for most of 60 years in Kashmir gained considerable momentum during the 90s decade when some of those fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan shifted to Kashmir.

When Musharraf ousted Mian Nawaz Sharif from power in 1999, the world did not accept it. He desperately needed redemption, 9/11 gave him a golden opportunity. While Pakistan could not avoid an eventual U-turn on the Taliban, by the speed of Musharraf’s U-turn (on one phone call) and his failure to negotiate a better deal with the US defined the subservience of the US master-Pakistan slave relationship. Musharraf became even more invaluable to the US when to relieve the pressure on the coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2003, he sent our soldiers into battle in Fata at US urging without deploying the requisite manpower, training, equipment, logistics, etc.

The camouflage-clad soldier had never seen actual combat, but he talked a good talk and wooed the media with his tough-talking. He never once visited his beleaguered troops fighting in the field between 2003 and 2008, if he had, it was a well-kept secret! Instead of negotiating reasonable transit fees as well as adequate compensation for the degradation of our physical infra-structure like ports, roads and railways, what we did get for the slaughter of our soldiers and citizens was ‘conditional aid’.

With our soldiers virtually as mercenaries and without modalities agreed to in writing, the US got the space to do very much what it pleased. Pakistan became a huge staging area for their war in Afghanistan, complete with drones taking off from Pakistani soil and killing terrorists, many innocent Pakistanis became ‘collateral damage’ in the ‘killing zone’. While drones are far more accurate than aerial bombing, causing great resentment within Pakistan.

Things became even worse with the advent of the democratic regime in 2008. With Pakistan’s ambassador to the US saying, albeit in private, to people of consequence in Washington DC what they wanted to hear, “the root of all the problems in the region is the ISI and the Pakistan Army and the only way to “secure the Pakistani nukes” is to defang them”, they listened, and believed.

Whatever may be the truth about the Mansoor Ijaz memo, Husain Haqqani’s recent clearly anti-state article ‘Breaking up is not hard to do’ exposed in graphic detail his priorities as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, viz, continues to do what he has successfully done all his life, promote Husain Haqqani over, and at the cost of, everything and everyone else.

Consider the advice by George Washington, to “stay clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world”. In his farewell address to the American people, the first US president admonished the nation to “never make inveterate friends or inveterate foes”.

The world became unipolar with the US winning the Cold War hands down, with the Bush Administration taking over power in 2000, neocons started dictating US policy. To a man none of them had ever seen combat, they were therefore gung-ho about sending others into battle. What did it matter to them if young Americans died in distant lands, their sons never faced the same risks!

Policies have to be unemotional in content, what makes a nation great is the patience and humanity it inculcates in policy-making. This is something unique in the American character that makes the US special, during the last decade this character quality has been intermittent, diminished by the arrogance of the neocons.

Former US defence secretary Leon Panetta seemed to have belatedly recognised Pakistan’s crucial role, “the US cannot win the war in Afghanistan without winning in our relationship with Pakistan”. Whatever the US tried to do in Afghanistan it could not have done so for over a decade without Pakistan as a transit area and a staging base.

Can the US do without the Pakistan Army in the vacuum that will occur by the end of 2014 now? The sheer momentum of money will keep the Afghan fighting force intact for some time, even now over 30 percent desertions take place annually.

Business cannot be as usual in the circumstances, and both the US and Pakistan have to be mutually pragmatic in re-structuring the relationship more equally for mutual convenience.

(Extract from a talk given as Director EWI at the EastWest Institute (EWI) New York on April 16, 2013).

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: ikram.sehgal@wpplsms.com

Ikram Sehgal, "Why break the relationship?," The News. 2013-04-18.
Keywords: Political issues , International issues , International war , Armed forces , Policy making , Military-Pakistan , Policy-United States , Cold war , Terrorism , Churchill , Nawaz Sharif , Gen Musharraf , Mansoor Ijaz , Husain Haqqani , Leon Panetta , United States , Washington , Pakistan , Afghanistan , India , Russia , Kabul , China , NATO , MAD , COIN , KGB , RAW , 9/11