Author : Vikram Sood

Originally Published 2011-12-06 00:00:00 Published on Dec 06, 2011
The United States wants a higher strategic relationship with India, which does not include agreeing with Indian views on Pakistan. Our participation in the Bonn conference should bear this in mind.
Life after American raids on Pak posts
When 9/11 happened, the Americans were livid and they descended on Islamabad, Rambo style, threatening General Musharraf with the famous "either you are with us or against us" threat. Musharraf quickly acquiesced at that time, but played the game for the long haul. Soon he had beguiled the Americans to airlift stranded Pakistani soldiers and ISI personnel in different parts of Afghanistan but chiefly from Kunduz, Northern Afghanistan. These Pakistanis were assisting the Taliban in final assault on Ahmed Shah Massoud's Tajik fighters of the Northern Alliance. Musharraf's Pakistan became America's stalwart ally and a major non-NATO ally. The Americans poured in money and goodies for their newfound friend. But soon enough, the friendship began to sour. The U.S., unable to get a hold of Osama Bin Laden, also got diverted to Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre went backstage.

Over time, when the Americans returned, matters only became worse. Pakistan had consolidated with the Taliban in its quest for strategic depth in Afghanistan. It was apparent to all that Pakistan remained duplicitous, although the U.S. went through its customary denial as it followed a policy of public approbation of the ally while there might have been private reprimand. The strategic interests of the two countries were totally divergent and it was going to be a matter of time before the rupture became fairly open. On the one hand, Pakistan saw U.S. engagement in the region as being guided by its 'selfish' interests of Afghanistan and terrorism, and suspected that the Americans have been chasing Pakistan's nuclear 'assets'.

On the other hand, Pakistan was equally selfish when it saw this engagement as an opportunity once again, for tackling only its primary enemy, India.

The last decade was symptomatic of a mutually suspicious, exasperating and hostile relationship where Pakistan consistently double-crossed its benefactor, the United States, and maintained a duality in its relations with the various terrorist factions on its soil and in Afghanistan.

Relations nose dived on May 2 this year after the heli-borne U.S. Navy Seals attacked Osama bin Laden's well protected hideout in Abbottabad, close to Pakistan's premier military training academy, Kakul. Osama was killed in the attack and quickly buried at sea, hundreds of miles away.

The attack left the Pakistan Army, which was barely recovering from the vicious and violent onslaught of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan in the heartland of the Punjab, looking silly and helpless. There was anger that the U.S. had cheated Pakistan by not trusting Pakistan about this attack on its soil. There was double embarrassment that Pakistan was caught out hiding the world's most wanted terrorist with red faces at the GHQ in Rawalpindi that the much vaunted Pakistan Army had been caught napping. A frustrated and angry Pakistan Army reacted by arresting the doctor who was suspected of having given the information about Osama to the Americans, the TTP fundamentalists reacted by attacking the PNS Mehran Naval base and destroying two of the navy's PC-3 Orion aircraft.

The mutual bickering continued and many Americans were convinced after the OBL incident that Pakistan was consistently double crossing them.

Perhaps at this stage, sometime after May 2011, a decision was taken that the U.S. was on its own and that Pakistan was not a reliable partner.

The extent of duplicity is measured by the fact that Pakistan was using American money to arm terrorists and target US/NATO positions through the Haqqani Networks and sheltering the Afghan Shura, while allowing the use of Pakistan territory at the Shamsi air base to target terrorists - but only those that Pakistan thought were expendable.

The attack, about a mile inside the Mohmand Agency on Pakistan Army positions on November 26 that killed 28 Pak army soldiers, was partly a result of this exasperation in Washington D.C.

There were reports and complaints that in the past six months, Pakistan military positions had been shelling Afghan positions from Mohmand, Dir and Chitral. The targets were in Khost, Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, and according to reports, the shelling between May and August had killed 42 Afghans and wounded 48 others.

Afghan officials also claimed in mid-October that between September 1 and October 17, there were eight cross border incidents from Mohmand into Kunar.

Besides, the NATO/US dependence on Pakistani territory for logistic supplies to their forces in Afghanistan, has reduced over the last few months. Estimated to be down to about 30 percent, the calculation might have been that the possible reaction by Pakistan of closing the crossings from Khyber and Chaman, was a manageable risk.

The reaction from Pakistan has been predictable. The killing of OBL, the attack on the Mehran naval base, and now the attack in Mohmand has grossly undermined the image of the armed forces. There was anger in the rank and file of the Army, causing some concern to General Kayani, who had barely succeeded in restoring morale after the incidents in NWFP and Punjab.

The anger on the street probably forced Islamabad to ask the U.S. to vacate the Shamsi air base in Balochistan, close the border for NATO supplies, approach the UNSC and decided to stay away from the forthcoming Bonn conference on Afghanistan.  The other anger was among the Islamic extremists and, there have been reports of an attempted assassination last Tuesday of a very senior ISI official close to its headquarters in Aabpara, Islamabad.

Official angry responses at the violation of Pakistan sovereignty sits strangely on an administration that has violated these principles on both its neighbours for decades. The excessive display of response is partly for domestic consumption, to cover its own acts in the past and at being caught out as somewhat incompetent to defend the country.

The Muslim world is far too involved at this moment with its own problems to pay much attention to events in Pakistan.

Similarly, Europe is embroiled in an economic crisis and wants to vacate Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Apart from a proforma show of support from China, there would also be concern in Beijing about the growing instability in Pakistan while deteriorating U.S.-Pakistan relations would increase Pakistani dependence on China and the eventual thinning down of US presence in the region would leave a vacuum in South Asia. Given these future changes, China may eventually face a more difficult decision regarding how best to manage relations with Pakistan in order to ensure domestic and regional stability. The question is how.

In America, a survey conducted one day after the Mohmand attack, showed that 55 percent of those polled considered Pakistan as the enemy, and only seven percent considered it a friend. More Republicans (70 percent ) as compared to Democrats (47 percent) considered Pakistan is the enemy.

No wonder Pakistan watcher Bruce Riedel called his book on Pakistan the "Deadly Embrace"; this explains the idiom of the US-Pakistan relationship.

We ourselves are far too involved in our domestic crises to pay any great attention to Pakistan and, the danger for us is, a reaction by thinking out of the box in an absent minded sort of way. It must be lonely out there in Islamabad/Rawalpindi, but histrionics and bravado apart, there is not very much Pakistan can do for its economic survival today without U.S. benevolence.

It is difficult to believe that the NATO attack was an error or that NATO was misled by conniving Afghanis to settle old scores with the Pakistanis. Given the background of repeated attacks into Afghanistan after the May 2 killing of OBL, this was more likely to have been a punitive raid.

It is also likely that this will be ultimately shown as a mistake to provide a fig leaf for restoration of relations. Pakistan now wants a written agreement with guarantees about further co-operation with leaked suggestions that without this Pakistan would pull out of the war on terror, implying also pulling back troops from the western border.

Ultimately, a solution will have to be found and most likely, it will be blood money, a la Raymond Davis, although it will be couched in grand diplomatese. Latest statements from the Pentagon say that this was not a deliberate attack without indicating how the attack took place.

In the immediate short term, India will have to decide its role at the Bonn conference that Pakistan plans to boycott despite pleas from the U.S., Afghanistan and Germany.

It is true that without Pakistan, the Bonn conference will be stultified; at the same time, Pakistan would be reluctant to let India have a field day in Bonn.

Most probably, the West, anxious to have an early settlement and exit, would not still want India to run away with an agenda that does not suit them or Pakistan.

The U.S. wants a higher strategic relationship with India, which does not include agreeing with Indian views on Pakistan. Our participation in the Bonn conference should bear this in mind.

Whatever happens on Pakistan's western front, nothing is expected to change for India on our border with Pakistan.

The estimated 2500 terrorists that Indian intelligence agencies say are waiting to cross over to India is an indication of the 'war preparedness' in Pakistan.

India is yet to receive voice samples of those who carried out Mumbai 26/11 three years ago.

The attitude of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, more than the speeches of politicians and diplomats, along with the protective attitude of the regime towards these groups, are true barometers of the attitude of the powerful Pakistan Army toward India.

(Vikram Sood is Vice President, Centre for International Relations, Observer Research Foundation)

Courtesy: ANI
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Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood is Advisor at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Sood is the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) — India’s foreign intelligence agency. ...

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Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

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