January 11, 2013

Wield a very big stick

Anirudh Bhattacharyya, 
Hindustan Times
January 11, 2013
First Published: 22:05 IST(11/1/2013)
Last Updated: 22:13 IST(11/1/2013)

If this week's inhuman killing of two Indian jawans near the Line of Control seems like a movie we've seen before, it may spawn sequels in the months ahead as Pakistan's deep state factors in a couple of developments in Washington to pursue its policy of borderline lunacy. First, there's Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who is considered soft on Pakistan and is almost certain to be confirmed as America's next Secretary of State.
Kerry is considered a seasoned diplomat, the sort who has gathered enough salt and pepper over years of inhabiting the Beltway. He is known for his sagacity in international matters, like when in 2009 he visited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and described his regime as "an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region".
He was also the proponent of the $7.5 billion aid package the US has attempted to bribe the Pakistanis into cooperation with, in an effort to stabilise Afghanistan.

When it comes to India's concerns over American aid to Pakistan being misdirected, Kerryistas assert this isn't a zero-sum game. For them, it's rather a lump-sum game. Ignoring demands within the Senate to quell the cash gusher to Islamabad, Kerry championed the Pentagon's release of $688 million to Pakistan's armed forces to reimburse them for stationing 140,000 troops along the Durand Line. Somewhat like giving a bonus to a watchman after he snuck burglars into your home.
Kerry, of course, is pretty generous with other people's money. According to reports, he's the richest member of the US Congress, estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion, which would make Mitt Romney seem quite middle class. However, Kerry's wealth is mostly derived from his marriages, the last to the heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune. When he ran for president in 2004, this detail made him into a punch line. As comedian Craig Kilborn cracked then, "There was an embarrassing moment at a recent Democratic fundraiser. When John Kerry was handed a $10 million dollar check, he said, 'I do.'"

Kerry's imminent position is not the only reason Pakistan, marshalled by its armed forces, is losing its collective head.
It's also due to the looming premature withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. In recent days, the Obama administration has even spoken of a "zero option" (no troops left behind) in Afghanistan. Or another way of acknowledging that after a decade in Afghanistan, the Obama administration's Af-Pak strategy has proved null and void. Like Kerry's reported arrangement with his wife, America seems to have entered into a prenup with the Karzai government in which the latter will be left with nothing once the two part ways.
In Rawalpindi, the army is already looking ahead to a scenario where instead of stringing America along, they'll pull the strings on a puppet regime in Kabul, and help the ISI's favourite jihadis string up the few pro-America elements left in that country.

And then, but obviously, turn their beady eyes upon Kashmir.

The trailer we witnessed wasn't just another skirmish. The decapitation of a soldier isn't on any manual of military engagement. But then when one party engages in unconventional warfare, norms of the Geneva Convention rarely apply.
Pakistan's designer bag lady, Hina Rabbani Khar, wants the United Nations to probe the brutal incident. Obviously, she has great confidence in the UN's abilities. After all, didn't it in March 2012 adopt a resolution on Libya that included this fine line: "Pakistan praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya's commitment to human rights, in particular the right to health, education and food, even when the country had faced sanctions in the 1990s." Unfortunately, that report wasn't referring to the current dispensation in Tripoli but to Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship.
As India continues to talk to Islamabad's civilian government, it may be wise to wield a stout stick, because we're entering a phase when Pakistan will want to stick it to us.
Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years
The views expressed by the author are personal

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