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Pakistan: ‘arena’ of the next Cold War —Sajjad Shaukat

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Owing to the American perennial wave of drone strikes and a blame game that al Qaeda leaders are hiding in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan, a gulf has been created between Pakistan and the US, which is likely to widen in future

We should not judge the multi-faceted crises of Pakistan, including the perennial wave of suicide attacks, in isolation. The rapidly developing geo-political differences among regional and global powers in Asia show that the next Cold War, which is in its embryonic stages, is likely to be waged between the Russia-China alliance and the US-led nations, while Pakistan has already become its arena.

Despite cooperation, disagreements exist between Washington and Beijing over Chinese export of missile technology, human rights and the Taiwan issue. The US strategic thinkers take China’s military modernization as a great threat to its military bases in the continent.

Some new developments have also revived the old animosity between Russia and the US. Apart from differences over the American occupation of Iraq and its national missile defence system (NMD), in August 2007, the US blamed Russia in connection with an incident of a missile dropped on Georgian soil. In that context, the then Russian President Putin had openly stated that his country was returning to its Soviet-era practice of sending long-range bomber aircraft on regular patrols near NATO airspace.

Now it seems that the differences of the US with Russia and China are moving from strategic partnership to strategic competition. Notably, it was due to the Moscow-Beijing stand in the UN Security Council that the US could not succeed in imposing tough economic sanctions on Iran, which is determined to continue its nuclear programme.

On August 16, 2007, during the annual summit, leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) displayed their strength against the rising dominance of the US in the region, calling for a multi-polar system in the world. Russian President Putin had even proposed defence cooperation among the member states. Pakistan and Iran also participated in the summit as observers and are expected to get permanent membership. The SCO is seen as an anti-US club, which is also against the NATO military presence in Afghanistan, near the region of Central Asia, which is replete with oil and gas.

Last year, Islamabad and Tehran signed the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project without New Delhi, as the latter was reluctant owing to its pro-US tilt.

As regards India, frustrated in achieving its aims of getting the status of a superpower, the Indian rulers have now openly started threatening Pakistan and China with war. The Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor revealed on December 29, 2009 that the Indian Army “is now revising its five-year-old doctrine” and is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan”.

India, which successfully tested missile Agni-III in May 2007, has been extending its range to target all the big cities of China. In fact, Pakistan’s province Balochistan, where China has invested billion of dollars to develop the Gwadar seaport, which could link Central Asian trade with the rest of the world, irritates both Washington and New Delhi. It has even shifted the centre of gravity of the New Great Game to Pakistan.

On the other hand, China has signed a number of agreements with Pakistan to help the latter in diverse sectors. So the Sino-Indian cold war is part of the prospective greater Cold War between the US and China. The US, which signed a nuclear deal with India in 2008, intends to make India a great power of Asia to contain China and destabilise Pakistan as well as Iran.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the ISPR spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas have repeatedly stated that they have concrete evidence of Indian support to terrorism in Pakistan through Afghanistan.

As a matter of fact, the US has been playing a double game with our country. Tough conditions of the Kerry-Lugar aid bill coupled with appreciation of the Swat-Malakand and Waziristan successful military operations by Pakistan’s armed forces might be noted as one instance.

Owing to the American perennial wave of drone strikes and a blame game that al Qaeda leaders are hiding in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, a gulf has been created between Pakistan and the US, which is likely to widen in future. Our foreign minister calls it ‘a trust deficit’.

Besides, terrorism on the global level has added a dangerous element of ‘hot war’ to the cold war. Particularly, an unending war between the US-led NATO forces and the Taliban has created instability in Afghanistan, rendering US power vulnerable.

Nevertheless, the impending new cold war would divide the world between two blocs —the Russia-China bloc and the US bloc. The main players of this game, such as North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian Republics are likely to align with the Russia-China alliance. On the other side, Japan, Georgia, Ukraine, South Korea and India would join the American bloc. In case of foreign troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, the latter could also join the Russia-China bloc.

Since Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, hence the US, India and Israel are determined to denuclearise it. It is worth mentioning that on October 7, 2009, BBC displayed a documentary movie regarding the eighth anniversary of the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan. It stated, “Now this war is being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it will soon spread to Pakistan.”

Nonetheless, Pakistan has already become the arena of the next cold war because of its geopolitical location. Therefore, unrest created by the foreign elements continues unabated in our country.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power. He can be reached at

Article originally published in Daily Times, reproduced by permission of DT.\03\10\story_10-3-2010_pg3_4

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