June 02, 2011

The changing game

C. Raja Mohan
Posted: Thu Jun 02 2011, 03:41 hrs


A month after Osama bin Laden was found and killed deep inside Pakistan by US Special Forces, there is mounting pressure on Rawalpindi to go after the forces of violent extremism that it had nurtured for so long.
Under pressure from the US, the Pakistan army is on the verge of launching operations against the extremist sanctuaries in North Waziristan. After resisting US demands for long to go after the Haqqani network and other groups operating in North Waziristan, Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, may have no choice but to comply now.

Many in India will argue that the US pressure on the Pakistan army is not comprehensive enough and that there is no evidence to suggest that eliminating Rawalpindi’s support to the Lashkar-e-Toiba is at the top of the Obama administration’s priorities. The sceptics will conclude that Kayani will find ways to evade American pressure and will not discard the decades-old tradition of using terror as an instrument in the pursuit of its long-term objectives in Afghanistan and India.

Ads by Google International Relations Earn your international relations diploma at AMU. 100% online courseswww.AMUOnline.com/InSharp Solar Technology Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, thin-film solar cells, and more!sharpusa.comInternational Calling Great Rates For Intl Calls Use Lingo 45 Countries for mo. Feewww.Lingo.com
Such an outcome cannot be ruled out. But India would be unwise to conduct its diplomacy on the premise that Pakistan will return to business-as-usual. Such an approach will be defeatist on India’s part. Delhi must, instead, grasp the opportunities that have presented themselves after the killing of bin Laden and find ways to ensure that the current crisis will lead to significant structural changes in Pakistan’s internal and external orientation.

Limited though it might be, the international pressure on the Pakistan army to clean up its act is real for now. Kayani’s initial response was to whip up anti-Americanism and reach out to China as a potential alternative to the US. Both these moves were not enough to extricate the Pakistan army from the mess it has found itself in. The defiant resolutions in Pakistan’s National Assembly, approved at the behest of the army, have not stopped the US drone attacks in Pakistan.

The Obama administration has shown that it has the resolve and the means to coerce Kayani. Beijing, while offering tea and sympathy for Islamabad, has asked the Pakistan army to replace its bravado with a policy of befriending neighbours and responding to international concerns on terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

The Pakistan army’s reported decision to start military operations in North Waziristan, then, marks a turning point in the evolution of Pakistan’s Afghan policy. Whether there will be a similar shift in Pakistan’s approach towards India will, however, depend on what Delhi does in the coming weeks and months.

India can’t expect changes in Pakistan’s policy by issuing public statements or private démarches to Islamabad. Nor can it succeed by complaining about what other powers do with Pakistan. India needs a pro-active policy that can influence the strategic calculus of the main actors in the current dynamic on our north-western frontiers. India’s intervention must necessarily have four different strands.

The first is a long-term commitment to the security and prosperity of Afghanistan as the US prepares to reduce its military footprint starting this July. This is precisely what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did when he travelled to Kabul last month. By stepping up India’s economic assistance by another $500 million, offering to train Afghanistan’s security forces, backing President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and avoiding anti-Pakistan rhetoric, Dr Singh has repositioned India in what could be the endgame in Afghanistan.

Second, Delhi must now actively prevent any possible military tension on the borders with Pakistan. Delhi has no reason to present itself as an alibi for Rawalpindi to wriggle out of international pressures to launch sustained military operations against terrorist hideouts in North Waziristan. India must also bring the first round of renewed negotiations with Pakistan to a successful conclusion. Any progress in India’s relations with Pakistan will be a welcome contribution to international efforts to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

Third, Delhi must intensify its conversation with Washington on how best to secure Afghanistan. After Dr Singh’s visit to Kabul, which saw India drop its opposition to an engagement with the Taliban, the divergence between Delhi and Washington on Afghanistan has begun to narrow.

India must also talk with the US about Pakistan. Until now, Delhi and Washington have had demands on what the other needs to do vis-a-vis Rawalpindi. If they choose to cooperate with each other, however, India and the US have a better of chance of moving Pakistan away from its support to violent extremism.

Finally, this is also the moment for India and China to begin a dialogue on the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While Washington might have the option of vacating Afghanistan in the not-too-distant future, Delhi and Beijing have no exit strategies to consider, and must live with the potential disorder in their shared Af-Pak neighbourhood.

As Rawalpindi’s ability to control its internal and external environment erodes amid pressure from the US and jihadi groups, China will find it hard to rely on the Pakistan army alone to achieve its growing regional interests in South and Southwest Asia.

The political future of Pakistan, then, is a common problem today for India, the US and China. Until now, India’s Pakistan strategy has been conceived in a very narrow bilateral framework. India now has a rare opportunity to help itself by cooperating with the US and China in stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan.

By offering constructive solutions to the conflicts on Pakistan’s eastern and western borders, India can make gains in its own war on terror, deepen its strategic partnership with the US, and remove a major obstacle in the improvement of its relationship with China.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, express@expressindia.com

No comments: