It’s all about AF-Pak

December 30, 2009 at 7:18 pm (Global Issues, Pakistan, Politics) (, , )

Source: Khilafah Magazine

The climate of the Himalayas is set to change yet again. The melting of snow in the Himalayan summer is a natural phenomenon but the melting of tensions between two heavy weights of the region – Pakistan and India – is so artificial that its sensation does not require any sophistication.

Once again the stage is being set to restart the so called composite dialog between two arch rivals in South Asia and the meeting of the Premiers of two countries at the sidelines of NAM in Sharm-el-Sheikh was the beginning of the dialog process. However events leading to Sharm-el-Sheikh need scrutinizing so as to avoid illusions and unnecessary hope re the future.

Traditionally the bilateral issues between Pakistan and India have been Kashmir, water disputes, Sirkrek, Siachin, nuclear related issues and military matters related to the ratio of forces. Before 9/11 the strategic equation of the region differed considerably compared to the present day scenario. India and Pakistan had been struggling on the basis of equality for influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Despite some deficiencies Pakistan was in a much better position prior to the occupation of Afghanistan by the US. By becoming the client state of America in its so called war on terror Pakistan has not only lost its strategic space but handed over its sphere of influence to American led forces and India who both have interests contrary to Pakistan. On the other hand the Indo-U.S relationship has entered a new phase of strategic partnership and the Indo-U.S nuclear deal was its manifestation.

After the regime change in America the world of President Obama was different.America is stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan and is facing a resurgent Taliban threatening the very existence of the American led coalition on Afghan soil. Domestically the economic meltdown and the military failure in Iraq contributed to the free fall of the once lead super-power.A four month review was initiated by Obama on Afghanistan.The outcome of the review was that Pakistan and Afghanistan were bracketed into Af-Pak and a contact group consisting of India, Iran, Russia and China was formed on the pretext of a so called regional solution.The team that stabilized Iraq by unleashing a deadly chaos and implementing a typical divide and rule policy is now focused on Af-Pak namely Gen Petraus, Lt.Gen Stanley McChrystal and special viceroy on Af-Pak Mr. Richard Holbrooke.

Without the help of Pakistan the US cannot even stay for a week in Afghanistan and to implement the chaotic policy of Af-Pak it is important to consume Pakistan in the US’s so called war on terror with undivided attention. The Indian presence in Afghanistan is a major distraction for Pakistan. Particularly after the Bombay blasts in November 2008 the situation worsened and the two countries were again at the brink of war.

This climate of war was not favourable to US interests in the region as it needs Pakistan’s undivided attention in its war in Afghanistan. So it was decided that in the US to bring Pakistan and India into dialog so that a normalisation of relations could take place and in such a way that Pakistan’s interests could be effectively curbed, while big concessions from Pakistan would be granted to India so that the US could effectively engage India in Afghanistan.

There should be no doubt about the fact that the recent resumption of dialog between India and Pakistan is an American political venture and is a part of ‘Af-Pak’ Policy.

The efforts to revive the peace process started in a trilateral summit when president Zardari visited the US in May 2009. Under the US umbrella a memorandum on transit trade routes was signed aimed at giving New Delhi a trade route via Pakistan through Wagha-Torkham route of 520 KM (which has been reportedly approved by the cabinet recently) into Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on the eve of the summit termed this memorandum “an historic event”.

President Zardari has recently been on the record in saying that “India is not the enemy of Pakistan” and to the extent that “India has not been an enemy to Pakistan”. Secondly America has ‘pressurised’ India to end the mantra of the Bombay blast and Ajmal Kasab and revive the peace process de-linked from Bombay events.

Thirdly it has pressed Pakistan not to be obsessed with its Indian presence in Afghanistan and probably have ‘guaranteed’ that Pakistan would not be destabilised through Afghanistan. If one revisits history the situation is pretty much contrary as far as these so called guarantees are concerned.As Pakistan has been stripped of its influence in Afghanistan,America has also urged Pakistan to shun its strategic assets related to Kashmir. Is it a mere coincidence that America’s honorary ambassador to Pakistan Mr. Rehman Malik has indicated a Swat type Operation in Southern Punjab? To implement the Indo-Pak part of Af-Pak strategy the visits of president Obama’s national security advisor James Jones and under secretary of state William burns to Pakistan and India were of significance.

There have been reports of William Burns ‘pressing’ India to ‘trim’ or at least lower the number of Indian consulates so that Pakistan could be ‘satisfied’. So one could easily judge that in the pretext of reviving a peace process the real American agenda is to bring India and Pakistan into the war on terror and consume Pakistan in its war. Moreover a major offensive in Helmand province bordering Pakistan is being conducted by US marines and to crush the resisting forces in Afghanistan it is required by the US military that Pakistan should send more troops to the Balochistan-Afghanistan border from the eastern border which is only possible when tensions between India and Pakistan are over.

Moving on towards Sharm-el-Sheikh via Yekaterinburg, Russia. President Zardari was snubbed by Prime Minister Singh bluntly at the SCO summit accusing Pakistan of cross border terrorism from its soil. The response was the usual smile. So it was necessary to send such a personality to Egypt through which defeat could be presented as victoryeasily and to add a so-called credibility. That person was Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

Though nothing was changed in the original American script, Gillani’s participation could serve as a ‘credibility’ factor so that a sincere audience back home could be fooled easily, as happened when media personalities on the payroll of government touted Pakistani success in the press. Secondly, how could a government formed as a result of a deal with America safeguard the interests of Pakistan? Moreover, this is the same Prime Minister who crumbled to Indian pressure after the Bombay events and had agreed to send D.G ISI to India.

The text of the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint declaration clearly summarises the recent diplomatic manoeuvres of the US. The traditional issues between Pakistan and India have been effectively sidelined and now the so termed terrorism has become the main issue between Pakistan and India as declared in the introduction to the declaration.The main issue touched besides traditional poverty and development, was of Balochistan. Some influential elements in the media are over excited about the fact that Prime Minister Gillani has handed over the dossier regarding alleged Indian involvement in supporting a separatist insurgency.The fact of the matter is that nothing of that sort ever happened and this is evident from the point regarding Balochistan in the joint declaration, which states “Prime Minister Gillani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas”.

This is a vague and ambiguous statement. In diplomacy this is a weak statement which explicitly shows that such a statement is for public consumption. Furthermore India rejected such claims made by Pakistani newspapers.The Hindu quoted a senior Pakistani official saying “the newspaper report was incorrect.The only time that Pakistan handed over a file containing what it called evidence of an Indian hand in Balochistan was at the first meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism in March 2007”. Foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit was deliberately vague when journalists asked him about the dossier handed over to India at Sharm-el-Sheikh. “All I can say is that whatever was discussed and whatever was handed over is contained in the Joint Statement [signed at Sharm-el Sheikh],” Mr. Basit said, declining to comment any further as he could not discuss “intelligence matters”. Secondly the meeting between the leadership of two countries in Egypt was to improve the bilateral relationship and not to mend fences. If that would have been the case then Pakistan should have proactively pursued a vigorous diplomatic campaign in the world against Indian involvement in Balochistan which is clearly not the case.

However what is dangerous is the fact that the Pakistani leadership ignored all the traditional bilateral issues with India and the joint declaration is the proof that so called terrorism would be now the central point of agenda in future Indo-Pak talks and that talks would be as usual for time pass as previous composite dialog processes have been. On one hand America is making billions of dollars of deals with India in its defense industry, enhancing nuclear cooperation and help to lift the Indian economy and on the other hand is weakening Pakistan through its war on terror. By removing India as a distraction for Pakistan it wants to consume the country and particularly the military of Pakistan.The bracketing of Pakistan with Afghanistan clearly exposes the mentality of the US which wants to make the Af-Pak region synonymous with Rwanda or Congo while constructing India as a regional power.

It is high time to snub America’s war on terror and uproot its presence from the region for peace and stability.The military leadership of Pakistan should also make itself clear on its foreign policy matters as its representative’s presence on important events like the signing of the disastrous transit trade memorandum poses a serious question and gives the impression that all the government manoeuvres have a tacit approval from the military.

The media should avoid spinning the facts on behalf of power circles and complete impartiality should be observed while covering the events. For the long run Pakistan needs an alternate political system and a leadership that could take the foreign policy challenges head on, having a global vision of leadership, could bring industrial revolution to a resource rich country and provide peace and prosperity for its peoples

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