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Stabilising Af-Pak

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Ikram Sehgal

Among the studies for stabilizing this region, the Centre for American Progress’s Report can be singled out as being pragmatic in its analysis and recommendations thereof. The “Partnership for Progress” report came out late last year, things have since changed for the worse. In framing the new policy it remains a good document for reference by the Obama administration.

Among its recommendations, viz (1) Implement policies that recognize regional dimensions of Pakistan’s security challenges, that Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, are inter-linked. (2) Organize integrated international support to assist Pakistan. (as Holbrooke stated in Tokyo after US $5.4 billion was pledged by the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP), it was not enough compared to the US $50 billion needed) (3) Broaden and deepen the strategic relationship between the US and Pakistan. (this is difficult when you castigate Pakistan, particularly the Pakistan Army, publicly that not enough is being done) (4) Approach Pakistan’s military establishment in ways that support good governance and economic development. (because of the need for Arab-Israeli peace one can understand the type of “democracy” the US supports in Egypt and Jordan, if eradicating the menace of would terrorism is the priority, then some similar “understanding” for Pakistan may be a pragmatic necessity) (4) Support democratic transition in Pakistan without picking favoured candidates or political parties. (whereas PPP deserves to be the party leading a coalition in the federal governance, the system that has “democratically” elected Karzai and Zardari as presidents in Afghanistan and Pakistan is flawed. Could either of them stand the test of personal popularity and/or integrity that Obama rightfully prides himself on?)

The Report recommends, viz (5) Ensuring transparency and accountability of US funds. (the US must make sure every dollar counts, Pakistan must welcome benchmarks and accountability so that accusations of mismanagement and outright pilferage that are shameful for national pride are avoided) (6) Reform US national security institutions and (7) Being long-term and pro-active, to create a long-term partnership with Pakistan.

The report has noted that the US engagement in Pakistan has been inconsistent, transactional, and reactive.

While engaging the Kashmir question must be the priority, a much more serious problem is that in less than a decade India has twice threatened us with all-out war in less than a decade, in December 2002 and 2008, using terrorist action by non-state actors as a pretext both times. As the name suggests, the Indian “COLD START” strategy envisages moving Indian forces without any warning or mobilisation into unpredictable locations at high speeds against Pakistan (on the Israeli pattern of 1956 and 1967) seeking to defeat Pakistan by achieving total surprise at both the strategic and the operational levels (remember Pearl Harbour), striving for a decision before the US or China could intervene on Pakistan’s behalf. An unspoken assumption seems to be that “rapid operations would prevent India’s civilian leadership from halting military operations in progress, lest it have second thoughts or possess insufficient resolve”. Does this particular Indian military psyche conform to the so-called civilian control of the Indian military? Facing a foe having 3:1 superiority, and with such a history and such an offensive strategy, we may be forgiven for our “India fixation”.

The military challenges for Pakistan posed by COLD START derails any resolve for sustained peace with India, re-constituting Pakistan’s strategy to take on all five of India’s “Strike Corps” with all our three “Army Reserve” formations presently occupied in FATA, Dir and Swat. Please forgive also our suspicions as to what the many Indian consulates in Afghanistan are doing on our western borders!

Addressing the National Defence College (NDC) Bangladesh on the dire necessity of peace between India and Pakistan, the “Q & A” session meant to last 30 minutes stretched for over an hour. Over two dozen irate Bangladeshi colonels and brigadier generals (including officers from Sri Lanka, Nepal, and air force and navy equivalents) took me to task for being naïve. One could understand why the Pakistanis facing overwhelming Indian military numbers would not be amenable to my proposition. I was stunned by the reaction in Dhaka. Even someone as subservient as Musharraf had enough patriotism and good sense in him not to commit our total “army reserves” to fighting counter-insurgency on our western borders. It is true that without engaging more troops against the insurgents, we will never get the job of eliminating the source of terrorism done. Can this be done with India breathing down our necks?

The original aim of eradicating world terrorism wrongly diverted to Iraq in 2003 by the Bush administration, the US is now focusing back on Afghanistan. However the tendency to gloss over the core question of Kashmir (and the India-Pakistan relationship thereof) derails any objective course of action. However unpalatable it may be politically, Kashmir must factor in any equation for stabilizing this region, if not an agreement at least an arrangement.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:

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