US-Pakistan relations are being driven by the Indo-US desire to completely eliminate Pakistan’s influence in post-US Afghanistan. India is preparing to take over the reins of Kabul’s de facto government from the US. A very well authored script is being played out to discredit Pakistan and its human and material sacrifices in War on Terror. To strengthen anti-Pakistan perception being created by the media, stage-managed events are unfolding which include unfortunate assassination of Professor Rabbani.
But can Pakistan’s role in the post-US Afghanistanbe totally eliminated? What would be the
consequences of any such ill-conceived plans?
Pakistan is Afghanistan’s immediate neighbor and both the countries share a porous border called Durand Line. The tribes on both sides of the border are not only ethnically related, they have family ties. In some cases, families are divided on both sides. These are ethnic Pashtun tribes which incidentally constitute the ethnic majority of Afghanistan and have always been ruling the country.
Afghanistan has been a favorite playground for the players of the Great Game since 17th century. In those days, the competition between Tsarist and Communist Russia and the British government for Central Asia made Afghanistan a deadly battle ground, and graveyard, for the occupation army of Britain. The USSR, a super power, wrote its complete disintegration in the battlegrounds of Afghanistan in 1980s. America first entered Afghanistan to counter Soviet encroachment. Ten years ago, the United States launched a military effort in the country to inhibit al Qaeda actions, to end the draconian rule of the Taliban and to help the country establish free democratic institutions.
The evidence suggests that the US has not been able to achieve its objectives through its Afghanistan (mis)adventure. It has now decided to withdraw from Afghanistan. If Afghanistan misadventure was a deadly blunder of Bush regime, the troops’ draw-down at this stage will be a deadliest mistake. If America withdraws from Afghanistan before the country establishes a stable democratic government, it creates the opportunity for radical groups such as al Qaeda and/or the Taliban to return and dominate the government, undercutting US goals.
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has a vested interest in the stability of Afghanistan. According to Washington Times, an unfriendly government in Kabul creates difficulties in terms of regional issues, border disputes, border control, easy access to Pakistan by Afghan radicals, trade problems and a host of other issues. Moreover, the growing insurgency in the provinces bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan costs Pakistan in both manpower and financial expenditures. Pakistan and Afghanistan relations are tense, partially because Pakistan believes Afghanistan and India actively work against Islamabad. Pakistan points to the Afghanistan vote against its accession to the United Nations – the only country not to support its inclusion – as evidence of anti-Pakistan sentiment.
Afghanistan and the United States claim Pakistan has supported the Taliban and fueled the Afghan insurgency because it believes the Taliban represents stability. Currently,Pakistan provides refuge to more than three million Pashtuns who fled Afghanistan after Russian invasion. If Pakistan continues to see itself outside the process in Afghanistan, it will have to defend its own interests in the region. This could include political and material support for those groups Pakistan believes are friendly and provide stability. If Pakistan returns the three million Pashtun refuges to a fragile Afghanistan, for example, it could tip momentum toward the return of a Taliban government, undercutting US objectives in the country. If Pakistan sees a political vacuum in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw, it will be forced to fill that void to keep other regional powers from gaining power in Afghanistan and avoid further problems on its borders.
Very simply, an Afghanistan without the participation of Pakistan will remain fragile. Currently,Pakistan is a buffer state between terrorism and the rest of the world. If it does not have a say in the future Kabul dispensation, it will be pushed to wall and will not be able to stop the terror from reaching the shores of Europe, USA and other developed states. If India starts meddling in Afghanistan in the hope to control the future Afghan government, it will have to pay a very heavy price. India is supporting only the Northern Alliance, an ethnic minority in Afghanistan and is hated by the Pashtun majority. Its role, whatsoever, in otherwise distant Afghanistan in the hope to encircle Pakistan and keep China away from the region, will not be acceptable to the Pashtun majority. Any power brokering by India will keep Afghanistan, and the entire region, destabilized and will leave the world at the mercy of extremists and terrorists.
by Faisal Qureshi
India and Pakistan don’t have to be enemies forever. The real question is: Will they ever become friends? Before I dive into this question, let me make a quick mention of Hillary Clinton’s visit to the region. While speaking in Kabul, last Thursday, she warned Pakistani leaders to crack down on the Afghan insurgents based in Pakistan or pay "a very big price.” While Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that America “will have to think ten times” before launching a unilateral action in North Waziristan, because “Pakistan is not Iraq or Afghanistan.” And then in Islamabad Madam Clinton said that the United States expected to see concrete operations in a matter of “days and weeks.” In a separate interview, she said: “Pakistan has to be part of the solution, or they will continue to be part of the problem.” Strongest words used by both sides during this ongoing disagreement.
Differences, interests, and aspirations of countries like Iran, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, make this the most complicated regional dynamics known to modern history, and Pakistan is right in the middle of it. Pakistan’s geographical position, and its great asset has become its greatest liability. There are countries fighting and funding proxy wars on our streets, while others are trying to get access to our routes to warm waters. A violent tussle to take control of its assets by various countries has divided the people of Pakistan to the point of a civil war. Drained its resources, almost triggering financial collapse. Weakened a nation with great potential to the extent that it is being openly called a “failed State” ready to split into political or tribal fiefdoms.
But what does all this have to do with India and Pakistan becoming friends? Quite a lot. The Indian leaders have on many occasions predicted and wished for Pakistan’s collapse. We keep hearing across the border voices demanding the re-inclusion of Pakistan into India. It is no secret that India has not only engineered trouble in Pakistan, but also instigated USA to hurt us whenever possible. Right after the Osama incident, the Indian leaders also aired their desire to take unilateral actions into Pakistan. India’s intentions are not a secret. The rhetoric, which originates from various Indian politicians and leaders, are indicative of a hidden common sentiment of most Indians; Pakistan as an independent State is not acceptable to them, and they want it to be re-assimilated into India.
Maps change, boundaries are redrawn. India needs to come to terms with the fact that Pakistan is now a sovereign State, and will stay that way. We too had to bite the bullet with East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh. Since partition, India, in alliance with England, gave Pakistan an unfair deal in the division of money, assets, industry, land, etc. The gap has only deepened with every blow, hidden and apparent, that has come our way from India. In 1947, England favoured Hindus against Muslims, and now United States is openly helping India gain regional supremacy at the cost of Pakistan’s annihilation. In return, America will get a bully in the region, and India’s Chanakyan spirit will get schadenfreude.
Conspiracy theorists believe that India is interested in an unstable Pakistan. However, I believe that is far from true. An unstable and untamed Pakistan doesn’t suit anyone’s interest, especially not India’s! What India really wants is a subservient Pakistan, which can only be achieved through its division or complete economic collapse. India knows very well that it is almost impossible to conquer Pakistan as long as it stands united, under one purpose, and under one flag. But a divided and shattered Pakistan would pose no opposition to occupation on ground, through mind, and in pocket.
Just the other day, Pakistan was forced to give India “the most favoured nation” status, which would work as a first step to more open trade between the two countries. A step that I believe would be disastrous for Pakistan, even though the policy’s proponents keep trying to sell its benefits. Even India had its imports shut tight till very recently, until their own industry had been strengthened to the point where it faced no threat. An open trade policy with an industrial giant like India would decimate Pakistan’s economy overnight. It will take away the already dwindling job opportunities from millions of people. This is exactly what India wants.
Simultaneously, the American backed governments of Pakistan have successfully destroyed the country’s industrial base. Be it through law and order crisis, or pathetic policies, industry has been categorically pushed out of Pakistan to countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. What’s left has been crippled by energy, gas or other infrastructure shortages. Even most of our top politicians have huge industrial investments out of Pakistan. The very same politicians have also been dividing the nation on basis of language, sectarianism, provinces, and anything else they can come up with.
At the same time, campaigns spending huge amounts of money from unknown sources have been claiming to bring India and Pakistan closer through art and music. If only it was that simple. I get into these arguments every time and I’m told that our real roots lie in India; that genetically and historically, we are closest to them, thus, an alliance of homogeneity is but natural. Again, I believe that this is impossible because of differences and interests that go much deeper than a song or a dance.
If America had any real interest in settling this region, it would force a settlement of the Kashmir dispute through a plebiscite. If America was sincere with Pakistan, it would stop manipulating our downfall through leaders who are really just agents of disaster planted through the NRO or other deals brokered in (or by) Washington. America claims they give us billions of dollars in aid; if it really wanted to help Pakistan, it would invest directly in infrastructure, hospitals, power generation, and things that matter, instead of greasing palms of corrupt leaders, who are loyal not to the people of Pakistan, but to their personal investments and children in the West.
Failing to do so poses a real problem not just for Pakistan, but also for those meddling in its affairs. Pakistan may be small, militarily ill equipped, led by weaklings intimidated by the US, but it has a unique ability to form some very key alliances, which are capable of becoming a formidable power, if the need ever arises. India and Pakistan may have the same history, but definitely not the same interests, nor direction. Given India’s lack of acceptance of Pakistan as a reality, the best one can hope for is a cautious calm. Individuals from both sides may become friends, sing a few songs, or even do business together; but as nations, I believe, India and Pakistan will never be friends.