Treat Pakistan’s Ailments with Strong Medicine
Amb Kanwal Sibal

What are the policy changes towards Pakistan that the US must make in the wake of the Osama bin Laden treachery? Business as usual between the two countries would be a folly. The US has to draw hard lessons from the enormity of the deceipt practised on it by its non-NATO ally that projects itself as a frontline state in the global war on terrorism.

All these years the suspicious US and wily Pakistan have been playing a chess game on terrorism. Pakistan has been able to block US moves because of their predictability. If the US relies on its habitual tactical moves it will never be able to checkmate its canny “partner-adversary”. If it must change the way it has played the game so far, what should be the new US moves?

The US must unequivocally resolve to use its leverages to bring the Pakistan military under civilian control. This would meet the crying need to bring Pakistan’s Afghanistan, Indian and nuclear policies under civilian control. It is the militarization of these policies that is principally responsible for conflict and instability in the region.

The US urge to promote democracy largely involves countries that it wants to extract from the sphere of influence of rivals. It is time it manifested itself purposefully in Pakistan. The sense of comfort the US has felt in dealing with General Kayani, touted as a military figure of “international stature”, ought to have got converted into an acute feeling of discomfort after Pakistan’s betrayal over bin Laden.

The US must therefore cease trying to obtain Pakistan’s cooperation through a self defeating loop of offering greater rewards to overcome Pakistan’s increasing reluctance to widen the scope of its combat against extremist groups in response to US demands. US military aid to Pakistan should be severely curtailed to signal reduced willingness to pander to the appetite of the Pakistani army, besides acknowledging the destabilizing role arms supplies play in India-Pakistan relations by building up Pakistani capacity and confidence to continue its confrontationist policies towards India.

In a way, the US has been subsidizing Pakistan’s miltary budget, sparing resources to buy weapons from China and pursue the country’s nuclear and missile programmes. The result has been a stronger grip of the military on the country’s political life. US economic assistance has not contributed to materially improving Pakistan’s economic situation; it has essentially prevented the country’s economic collapse without fuelling its economic growth.
Economic aid therefore should be made conditional upon a serious effort at economic reforms, agreed curbs on Pakistan’s nuclear programme(including the China-Pakistan nuclear deal) and missile testing, as well as reduction of the defence budget. There should be stricter accountability so that external infusion of resources is not used as a cushion for continuing disruptive policies and unproductive expenditures as before.

Pakistan’s strategic ambitions in Afghanistan should be contained rather than served. Subjecting a country to the hegemony of a neighbour cannot be justified. If Pakistan has legitimate strategic interests in Afghanistan so does India have in Pakistan or its other neighbours. Would that justify India exercising hegemony over them? If India’s presence in Afghanistan troubles Pakistan, China’s presence in Pakistan troubles India.

The US must tell Pakistan unequivocally that India as a democratic and secular country that respects ethnic diversity and amalgmates its variegated population into a participatory, constitutional polity provides a better example for Afghanistan to emulate than an internally intolerant Pakistan riven with sectarian strife. The example of the largest ethno-linguistic group- the Punjabis- dominating Pakistan and constantly straining Pakistan’s cohesion should hardly be replicated in Afghanistan by promoting a Pashtun take-over. Instead of playing along with Pakistan’s manoeuvres to exclude or limit Inida’s role in Afghanistan, the US should encourage an enhanced Indian role within the framework of regional cooperation structured around transit facilities, communication links, economic exchanges and access to natural resources.

It is time the US also abandoned its Pakistan-leaning posture on Kashmir implicit in its formulations expressing a readiness to play a mediatory role if both sides want it, or advocating a solution that takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. An apparent even-handed position on Kashmir equates India’s effort to preserve its territorial integrity with Pakistan’s efforts to undermine it. In tune with longer term compatibility of India’s and US’s strategic interests, the US should unequivocally back India’s territorial integrity as it exists on the ground today. This would exclude support for India’s legal claims over POK and Aksai Chin, but equally it would reject Pakistan’s and China’s illegal claims, respectively, over J&K and Arunachal Pradesh. As a step in this direction, the Kashmir issue should be removed from the UN agenda and the UN office in J&K closed down with US support.

Despite it being the epicentre of global terrorism, the footprint of terrorist attacks world wide being traced back mostly to Pakistan, the documented existence of terrorist camps on its territory, the involvement, re-confirmed in the Guantanamo-related Wikileaks, of the country’s principal military intelligence agency(ISI) in acts of terrorism, the evidence of ISI’s links with the Haqqani group which kills US soldiers in Afghanistan etc, the US has been exceedingly tolerant of Pakistan’s conduct. This contrasts with the robustness of US action against countries much less implicated in state sponsored or tolerated terrorism. This over-indulgence of Pakistan explains the surfacing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad

It is time therefore for applying the so-called smart sanctions against elements in Pakistan, in the military- serving and retired, the intelligence apparatus and non-state bodies. The face that Pakistan hides from scrutiny, the hypocrisy of its discourse, should be exposed.

If as a result of massive injection of military and economic aid, forebearance in the face of its links with jihad, tolerance of its duplicitous conduct towards its principal benefactor, ignoring its nuclear and missile infractions, nurturing hopes that its seemingly moderate elite will rectify the aberrations, Pakistan has gone from bad to worse, to the point that fears of its failure as a state have become real, the time has come for the US to do a serious profit and loss account. If things were headed in the right direction, even if slowly and fitfully, confidence in the efficacy of present policies could be justified. If the opposite is the case, would it be in US interest to allow things to worsen to a point where the situation becomes irretrievable? The outcome of unpleasant decisions now may be more assuring perspectives ahead.

The problem is that while the disease has been reasonably well diagnosed, the required medecine has not been administered. With more delay the condition of the patient will deteriorate, when either the dosage would have to be stronger or the patient will become incurable. Unfortunately, the patient is no mood to be treated and there is hesitation to use force.

Most of the suggested remedial steps above are unlikely to be taken. The prescription will be considered too drastic and India-serving. The presidential electoral calendar will be the biggest deterrent to sinewy diplomatic action. Consequently, the patient will continue to suffer, and so will the US and India.

Published in Mail Today Dated: 10th May, 2011


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