November 09, 2007

New Fuse Burning In Asia

Below article was published in NY Times in 1973 soon after coup in Afghanistan. The thrust of this article is Afghans were all set to dismantle Pakistan with the help of Moscow and Delhi whie US has "an Asian profile lower than a worm’s belly". VERY INTRESTING TO READ AND UNDERSTAND THE POWER PLAY IN THOSE DAYS .

New Fuse Burning In Asia
By C. L. Sulzberger
New York Times Jul 21, 1973 ; pg. 27

This week’s coup d’etat in Afghanistan might well change the ultimate power balance in South and Southwest Asia The Soviet position is certainly convenienced even if there is no known evidence that Moscow played any role in the ouster of King Mohammad Zahir Shah and the creation of the first Afghan republic by his cousin, Prince Mohammad Daud. Under both czars and commissars Russian authority has been lurching gradually southward toward the Indian Ocean for a century . It has clearly aimed at weakening Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, since that state was formed in 1947 when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned.

Long before Moscow and New Delhi became formal allies—an arrangement that helped India smash Pakistan in the Bangladesh war—they were conducting parallel policies in Afghanistan. Both encouraged the Pathan tribes of Pakistan’s. Northwest Frontier province to secede and Kabul happily played along.

In the first interview ever granted by any Afghan monarch, Zahir Shah told me in April 1950 (after stifling an earlier conspiracy): “Russia is happily watching the Pakistan Afghanistan dispute and would certainly intervene when it considers the right moment has come.” Is that moment now? There has been no suggestion that Prince Daud’s putsch . against his King (absent in Italy) was more directly connected with international affairs than the putsch by George Papadopoulos against Greece’s King Constantine (also absent in Italy, if not by choice). In 1957 I had a long talk with Daud, then Prime Minister and an acknowledged strong man. He said (when discussing Russia): ‘I can assure you Afghanistan will be the very last country in the world to become Communist.’ That may conceivably be true but ideology is no longer the answer. Nowadays the superpowers prefer to move quietly and indirectly when improving their positions. Yet a man has taken over in Kabul whose devoting a policy of weakening Pakistan and removing from its authority the Northwest Frontier tribesmen cannot fail to please Moscow (and New Delhi).

This in itself is not immoral. The Pathans have been fighting for a new deal ever since the British Raj. They never joyfully accepted the status of being glued into Pakistan when London decided on Hindu-vs-Moslem partition of India.

Nor could any Kabul Government oppose their desire. Afghanistan’s Establishment, including both the King and the man who bounced him, speak exactly the same Pushtu language as the Northwest Frontiersmen. But Moscow, hand in hand with New Delhi, had been encouraging Pakistan’s amputation even before that ill-conceived sectarian state was chopped apart in 1971.

Unlike the United States which blithely became involved in the area when it godfathered the Baghdad Pact (now CENTO), the Soviet Union has had a cogent, patient policy in South and Southwest Asia.

Sixteen years ago the Afghan Foreign Minister, Sardar Mohammed Na’im (incidentally Daud’s brother) complained to me that Washington had turned down a modest Afghan military shopping list when everybody else was being served in the Pentagon cafeteria. Moreover, the U.S. wouldn’t even admit that Afghanistan qualified for vague guarantees under the evanescent Eisenhower Doctrine.

As a result in 1955 Kabul had turned to Moscow for arms and help. Na’im made no bones about the risk. He acknowledged: ‘Not one land in the Middle East can erect a defense against a big modern power. This is particularly true of Afghanistan.” He recalled that when Russia absorbed that Central Asian buffer state, the Emirate of Bokhara, in 1924, Kabul had protested. But, he added: “Objections from a small country. such as Afghanistan don’t count much.’ .

Afghanistan was no democracy under King Zahir nor will it be under President Daud. What concerns the outer world is how the Afghan coup could change the Asian power balance. The answer is that probably the new dictator (which is what he surely is), backed by a Soviet-trained and Soviet-equipped army, may be expected to do all in his power to dismantle what’s left of Pakistan. This would suit India and Russia. It would scare the daylights out of the Chinese (Pakistan’s ally) who are already alarmed by the Soviet-Indian. alliance. It would infuriate the Shah of Iran who is determined, if necessary, to use his enormous, American- armed forces to keep rump Pakistan alive.

Whether this will he appreciated in Watergate-sodden Washington, with an Asian profile lower than a worm’s belly is unpredictable. But a brand new global fuse has just been lit.


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