Friday, October 1, 2010

American arms for Pakistan will raise tension with India

With Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani having taken charge of Pakistan's foreign policy and succeeded in procuring more sophisticated and lethal weaponry from the United States, India can expect increased tension along its border, more infiltration and higher level of rhetoric on Kashmir from Islamabad. Since Pakistan's creation, its Army has sustained itself on large infusions of American arms aid, kept civilians out of power most of the time and used tension with India to justify its existence and primacy in the power structure. American has been willing and happy to recruit Pakistan as a Cold War ally, bound by military pacts, and pay in cash and kind for the services rendered by it through the decades. The US assigned equally important post-Cold War roles to Islamabad in Afghanistan and continues to build its war potential against India, perceived as "enemy" by the Pakistani military establishment. Inside Pakistan democracy was not allowed to take root, and even after Gen Musharraf's departure from the scene, the Army is back at taking decisions and giving orders to an enfeebled and servile civilian government unsure of its tenure.
The strategic dialogue between the US and Pakistan clearly demonstrated who is giving orders in Pakistan as Gen Kayani, sitting by the side of the US Defence Secretary, watched his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi read out the brief prepared for him. secretary of State Hillary Clinton was ecstatic at Kayani's presence because the US has always depended on the Pakistan Army to implement its strategic agenda in the region, currently dominated by an honourable exit strategy for the US forces in Afghanistan after handing over power to Pakistan-chosen Taliban. It is well known that the Army retains an incentive to increase Pakistan's sense of insecurity, against evidence to the contrary. In a country where the military has ruled for decades, it is not surprising that a divided Pakistani political leadership is ever willing to too the Army's line.
Distrust of India having become the sole means of survival for elements of Pakistan's civilian and military leadership, they refuse to share India's desire to see the country secure itself, develop and prosper. Instead, they have consistently demonstrated arrogance born out of acquired military strength, enlightened self interest, a penchant for mendacity and willful disregard of the interest of their people, who continue to groan under poverty and suffer under feudal institutions, with the fundamentalists breathing down their necks to focus on India instead of giving vent to their feelings against corrupt and inefficient governments. The fundamentalists, sustained by the Army and its intelligence agencies, are effectively preventing democracy -- that too western, parliamentary-style -- taking root in Pakistan. The money and weapons obtained from the US go to sustain the Army and the fundamentalists and democracy and civil society are suppressed.
The 56-page list of demands handed to the US authorities this time was large and the Army managed to secure its basic interests -- more money and weapons. The military component has made New Delhi feel uneasy because the new weaponry is meant only for use against India and also to suppress the unfulfilled democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan's who are constantly fed on the rhetoric that their country fears an existential threat from India, which Army alone can meet and protect Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Over the decades Pakistan Army has perfected the art of blackmailing the US into giving it more arms and other aid in exchange for services rendered to protect its interests in the region and further its strategic objectives. The Obama Administration is giving the impression of becoming over-dependent on Pakistan, and this is where the danger for India and the international community lies.
The presence of Gen Kayani and ISI Chief Gen Pasha (who has been given a year's extension of service) at the strategic dialogue underlines the abnormality of the situation. Every time Pakistan is criticised over gaps in its campaign against the Taliban, which has a military component, Islamabad brings up the threat from India. Islamabad has often used the pretext of rising tensions with India to explain why campaign against the Taliban in Waziristan and other places cannot be, expanded. The US can itself verify that there has been no addition to the Indian formations already deployed to defend the western border. In fact, there has been thinning out of troops in Jammu and Kashmir after their withdrawal from towns. Yet the bogey is raised to hoodwink the US, which often laments that although huge sums of money are being paid to Pakistan for anti-Taliban and anti-Al-Qaeda operations, the results are not commensurate with the investment in cash and weaponry. In fact the Taliban have been gaining strength, both inside Pakistan and Afghanistan after the Pakistan Army proclaimed it was launching an offensive against them. Highly inflated figures of casualties suffered by the Pakistan Army during anti-Taliban operations have been given to the Americans to convince they that they too are paying a price.
Pakistan rulers know the one way to blackmail to blackmail and extract more out of Washington is to threaten to slowdown action against the Taliban on its western flank. Negotiating with the Taliban to take over in Afghanistan and also taking military action against them does not, therefore, make sense. Pakistan Army is targeting only those among the Taliban that have run out of its control and are challenging the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in Punjab. Pakistan Army has been nurturing and protecting the Lashkar which it continues to use for terror attacks against India and crating terror cells within India to give militancy a local colour. The US knows it, its Congressmen have debated the issue and think tanks have warned the Administration against depending on Pakistan deal with terrorism because it maintains a huge terror infrastructure on its soil. But the US has got so badly bogged in Afghanistan that it is prepared to pay any price and overlook anything Pakistan does in order to get out. Islamabad is taking full advantage of the situation and has already started putting pressure on India and kept thousands of terrorists read to infiltrate.

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