July 13, 2011

PAKISTAN: Between a rock...

Pakistan may barely survive the US military-aid cut, says N.V.Subramanian.


11 July 2011: Pakistan has dug itself into a hole. It can come out of it only if it makes a clean break with terrorism which it cannot and won't. The civilian political leadership (both on the ruling side and the opposition) is too weak and divided to take on the military and save Pakistan, because the Pakistan military is at the root of the present crisis. India can do nothing to save the situation and should not even try. Its entire efforts should be focused on securing its national territories and on countering the fallouts of Pakistan's imminent collapse. The trigger for all this has been provided by the US decision to withhold a little under a third of its military aid to Pakistan which was due for payment ($800 million). The decision has come after much agonizing and dithering. The Barack Obama administration (including the Pentagon) would have preferred the choices not to have turned so stark. But the US Congress had been steadily growing agitated over unquestioned disbursal of vast sums of taxpayer's monies to a country which has established a consistent record of acting against United States' interests. The break in relations came with president Barack Obama's ironic decision to order the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. It put Pakistan's military in bad light with the people as one not being able to defend the country's territorial integrity. It stoked the already virulent anti-Americanism in the country on account of the US drone campaign in FATA. And it defeated the central purpose of the Pakistan military's show of support to the US campaign against terrorism in FATA and in Afghanistan, which is to protect those terror leaders and groups that could regain Afghanistan after the US pullout and provide Pakistan strategic depth against India. With Osama Bin Laden killed in a US raid, the Al-Qaeda and assorted Taliban groups have naturally questioned the Pakistan military's ability to protect their leaders for the Afghanistan/ strategic depth quid pro quo. To remind the Pakistan military of its Faustian bargain and to show force at the same time, an Al-Qaeda squad attacked Pakistan's Mehran base, destroyed two naval Orions, killed a dozen commandos, and nearly murdered posted US and Chinese technicians. Within the Pakistan military, the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has become the weakest ever in his three-year service extension. His brief, as prepared by Pakistan's powerful corps commanders, was to extract the most monies and concessions from the US while playing the counter-terrorism game to Pakistan's advantage. Which is, as explained before, instigate and support terrorism against Afghanistan (and India), and use an eventually terrorist-controlled Afghanistan against India. The US is not bothered about Pakistani terrorism against India. It could not, however, tolerate Pakistan's double game in Afghanistan, and a military aid cut has followed weeks after Osama Bin Laden's assassination. With Kayani leading the Pakistani double game on terrorism, naturally he has been hurt the worst by Bin Laden's death. Initial US reports suggested he would be overthrown in a colonel's coup. Follow up intelligence said he had become very vulnerable and was no longer in a dominant position vis-a-vis the corps commanders. This writer assessed Kayani would go. He has no reason to change the analysis. To save himself, Kayani has had to distance from the US anti-terror campaign, and the consequences have followed. It is US aid cut now. The drone campaign in FATA conceivably could increase, peppered with American special forces' actions. While committed to leave Afghanistan, the US cannot show itself as being bogged down by an angry and uncooperative "ally". A section of the Pakistan military has sought to put up a brave face, saying that China will compensate the loss of US military aid. It won't. In the immediate aftermath of the Bin Laden assassination, the Pakistan PM made a panic trip to China. Later, the Pakistani side tried to insinuate Chinese takeover of Gwadar port. China denied it. It also point blank refused military aid, saying it was open to giving limited development assistance. China may still take over Gwadar. But it will not part with treasure as freely as the US does. And it probably knows that, sooner or later, it will provoke the same revulsion as America if it enters Pakistan in a big way. (Not to forget, the Lal Masjid attack was China-instigated.) So, while China has huge strategic stakes in rescuing Pakistan (as a counter to India, as a gateway to mineral-rich Afghanistan, and so on), it is also fully aware of the downside of getting too closely associated with that failed state. China will not commit US mistakes in Pakistan. Indeed, China has been counseling Pakistan not to make a final break with the US. But Pakistan's internal dynamics make such a break inevitable. Anti-Americanism is all-pervasive. The jihadi influence in the military is rising. The Pakistan military also needs the jihadis to advance its interests in Afghanistan and against India. And the civilian political leadership is powerless to break this nexus. Any which way you look, Pakistan is programmed for destruction. India can do nothing to stop this, and it shouldn't. Obviously, India has no role in Pakistan's present turmoil, and that is the way it should be. But in Pakistan's break up lies salvation for India. It could be argued that in deciding to cut military aid to Pakistan, the US has reached the same decision, without knowing it or even articulating it. India has to take the usual precautions in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere. The Pakistan military might calculate that a terrorism-triggered war with India would take the current pressure off it. Insane as it sounds, India should be prepared.

N.V.Subramanian is Editor, www.NewsInsight.net, and writes internationally on strategic affairs.

No comments: