On August 11, Agence France-Presse (AFP), the oldest news agency in the world, quoted NATO Commander US Army General David McKiernan declaring that “Pakistan’s intelligence agency is helping the Taliban to pursue an insurgency in Afghanistan that has seen a 50 per cent hike in attacks in some areas this year” adding that he is “not sure what level of leadership the cooperation reaches, but that there is complicity between the ISI and militants that come from Pakistan’s tribal regions.”
On August 10, Reuters reported that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has “urged the world to target the Taliban in Pakistan.”
On July 12, The Hindustan Times quoted India’s National Security Advisor MK Narayanan howling “ISI needs to be destroyed.” Welcome to realpolitik; no ethics or morals in this power game. American generals are failing in Afghanistan so they must find a distraction or a scapegoat, or both. The ‘Mayor of Kabul’ has flunked most of his tests so blaming his failures on to Afghanistan’s neighbour is the easiest way out for him. Lastly, when India’s moves to encircle her long time adversary are fought back Narayanan hurriedly embraces sadism.
It’s not that our problems have no solutions. On August 6, The Irish Times proposed one: “The key step is an agreement to end the conflict over Kashmir. The second is an agreement between India, Pakistan, and Iran, with the support of the international community, to treat Afghanistan as a neutral state. Absent such, both India and Pakistan (and also Iran) will treat it as just another part of a ‘great game’ between them. The third, to enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to live in peace, the colonial border between them, the Durand line, must be finally agreed, with resolution of the question of the Pashtun militants on both sides of that border who form the core of the Taliban insurgency in both countries.”
Pakistan has always been fearful of her big neighbour; fearful often to the ‘point of irrationality and delusion’. Kashmir was hatched as a strategic diversion. A blotted defence budget of a security state turned us into a rentier state renting out our geography to America. America, for her own great game, kept on financing one-quarter of our defence budget.
Alas, that’s history. In June, the US Department of Defence announced its National Defence Strategy. The 23-page document states two things about India. First, “our relationship with India has evolved from an uneasy co-existence during the Cold War to a growing partnership today (page 10).” Second, “we look to India to assume greater responsibility as a stakeholder in the international system, commensurate with its growing economic, military, and soft power (page 14).” Pakistan was not even mentioned once in the 9,000-word document.
India’s ‘double pincer’ at us could not have come at a worse time – economic meltdown, an active insurgency and a terrifying political vacuum. As always, military muscle must match economic power or doom and gloom is in the waiting. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had 27,000 nuclear weapons but the USSR is no more; collapsed into 15 constituents. Czechoslovakia was Czechoslovakia for 74 years — no more. Allegations and accusations levelled by McKiernan, Karzai and Narayanan are just that — accusations. But, the willingness of all three to so rashly arrive at the same anti-Pakistan conclusion is what the new realpolitik is all about.
This time it is serious. How long would Pakistan play a logistical hub both for the Taliban and NATO? The emerging trilateral consensus against us is a reality. This is something that we have never faced before; a challenge unlike any previous challenge, a challenge that can actually consume us as a country. To be certain, American foreign policy has become completely militarised and both Obama and McCain plan to escalate this militarisation — and that too towards us. It is for us to find a way out or be damaged irreparably. We need to ask just why is everyone turning against us. We also need to question proxy wars and examine regional economic integration. And then, radically recalibrate our power games under the new reality – or suffer debilitating consequences.
Postscript: Pakistan’s soul is under attack. Asif Ali Zardari in the presidency shall mean a potent front against extremism – and that will be good for the soul of our country.
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The News, 24/8/2008