Saturday, March 27, 2010
Pakistan-American Relations- Turning the Corner: ONION ACCEPTED
Only if the world had understood then, so much of mayhem and blood could have been avoided and so much money diverted to this impoverished region.
For the past two years, Pakistan’s gains have been eclipsed by more visible and pressing issues. There is national consensus on anti terrorism operations. Swat is fast returning to normalcy, lawless areas of Waziristan controlled and the strategic strip of Malkand, Bajaur and Mohmmand brought under civil administration. NFC award is a consensus document while the country is quietly reforming towards a parliamentary constitutional democracy.
However, economic management is far from effective. Pockets of poverty are broadening and steep. Consensus on upstream dams critical for future is still elusive. India’s overbearing control of rivers has resulted in water and power shortages tantamount to guillotine. All indicators are dangerously close to an implosion, but for the character of Pakistani people who unlike some elites realise that the country is at war.
After much suspicion, Pakistan-American-UK relations are undergoing a thaw on the contours presented by Pakistan as far back as 1990. Pakistan has played its role better than any other country and it is time that this great sacrifice of human lives and material losses is recognised and compensated by those who stand to benefit from peace. Only if the world had understood then, so much of mayhem and blood could have been avoided and so much money diverted to this impoverished region. At the helm of this change are the new vanguard of Pakistani leaders with self belief and mental resilience. They have turned cynic American and Indian think tanks on their heads.
At long last Pakistan’s policy makers are speaking and the world is listening. Slowly, the morphing of Shock and Awe to Mutual Trust and Cooperation is becoming visible and beyond circumspect diplomacy. Future rounds of dialogue supplemented with incremental cooperation will go a long way in resettling Afghan people and turning the tide on Pakistan’s economic recession.
Pakistan that housed Afghan refugees for more than 30 years must now play a crucial role in bringing peace, moderation and national consensus to a region torn with strife for two generations. It goes to the credit of Pakistan’s military leadership to have worked tenuously under guidelines from a civilian establishment from a point where hope was forlorn. As I had written in my grass series of articles for NEWS and NATION, “In politics, nothing is bleak forever and opportunities can be created from within the most hopeless cases. On the wide spectrum of US policy beginning with the strategy of cooperation and ending in the extremes of military intervention, Pakistan still lies in the zone between persuasions to coercion”. Pakistan has broken through that catchment.
Few agreed that this turnaround was ever possible. The young foreign minister has come of age as has the foreign secretary. The COAS commissioned in 1971 belong to a generation who were youngsters when Pakistan broke due to praetorian mindsets and exclusive politics. His Corps commanders and staff are all post 1971 and a breed far apart from the military dictators of the past.
As a subordinate, I had the privilege of candid discussions with General Kayani when he was the Director General Military Operations. In the context of the 9/11 crises, attack on the Indian Parliament and brainstorming on Pakistan’s Future War, one point came out loud and clear. He seemed convinced that if Pakistan could over ride its notional and internal contradictions, there would be no threat to security. It appears that at the fag end of his career, he is achieving this with his laid back approach, patience and deep thought. I see the article, ‘General in the Hood’ by Times of India as a tribute to a soldier, who despite tremendous odds has played his shots with precision, guile and effectiveness. Slowly and surely, he has created a space for consensus from where all routes lead to a prosperous Pakistan. His sure footed approach has helped him win the confidence of politicians in Pakistan and world over. Even more, he has restored the pride and prestige of the armed forces once seen waning.
But the road ahead for this new generation of politicians, generals and bureaucrats is laced with impediments and false starts. They have successfully turned the corner and must ensure that this engagement for peace is not derailed by narrow and short term agendas of the allies and the mindset of 1935 (Nation, 10 January 2010). Most importantly, India which feels excluded from the new initiative must never get a chance to disrupt the process through incidents like the attack on the Parliament and Taj Mahal Hotel.
For Pakistan, the massive military operations against militants are over. What remains are sting intelligence operations and limited surgical actions to target militants and their leadership. The nation can now concentrate on revival of the economy that includes energy, power, free trade, transfer of technology, investments and most, a workable plan for fast track socio economic development. The COAS has rightly offered to forego military assistance in lieu of economic revival.
Though nuclear cooperation will remain high on the agenda, Pakistan has to peg its negotiations with India. Pakistan must convince USA and its allies that henceforth Pakistan stands committed to non proliferation and counter proliferation efforts. Pakistan must remain cognisant of the fissile material protocols in which India’s Thorium Route (another fissile material) is always kept in focus.
Pakistan also needs to set up a panel of international lawyers for all international treaties and agreements, Indus Basin Water Treaty and Indian constitutional provisions relating to Kashmir. Once too often, Pakistan’s civil and military bureaucracy have been caught napping on these issues while the Indians have craftily played their cards and succeeded.
Commenting on US policy options in 2007, this seems an assessment almost prophetic. I had written this for a renowned daily that unfortunately refused to publish, deeming it unfit. This seems the blue print of the present US-Pakistan dialogue:
US Must Shift from a Coercive Military Posture to a Cooperative Strategy. Given the extremes of divide between the South Asian neighbours, Pakistan cannot be expected to make a unilateral policy shift. USA has to do enough to satisfy the Pakistani perceptions in this respect. To ensure that USA gets a whole hearted and valuable support from Pakistan, it must: -
• Dissuade India from any policies and actions that impinge Pakistan’s security concerns.
• Persuade India to exercise the principals of liberty, equality and freedom symbolised by the American Civil War on the people of Kashmir.
• Equip the armed forces of Pakistan with high tech reconnaissance and imaging equipment to monitor the lawless regions of FATA with the ability to engage in real time.
• Sharing of all intelligence with Pakistan related to operations on both sides of the international boundary and targets inside Pakistan.
• Formulate a joint and well enunciated strategy for fighting terrorism with the government of Pakistan at the highest level with the Pentagon and Joint Chief of Staff Headquarters/GHQ working within the political objectives.
Shift from a Predominantly Military to a Social Dimension of Strategy. The larger canvas will have to be built around the societal element. It is important that USA shifts its focus from military dominance to the forgotten social dimension of strategy (Michel Howard).
• Rather than individuals; establishment and strengthening of institutions, with a long term objective even if a short term gain has to be sacrificed. In this regard, strengthening of a performance driven democratic culture is most important.
• Modern education both at technical and higher levels.
• Fast track socio economic development in the deprived areas of Pakistan.
• Agriculture development and water management.
• Waiver of import barriers on value added goods from Pakistan particularly textiles.
• Foreign direct investments in the energy and water sectors.
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.