Where Interests Clash

October 28, 2010

by Farooq Hameed Khan

It was the perfect setting for some frank and hard talk, as the Pakistani delegation headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani arrived in Washington for the third round of the much trumpeted Strategic Dialogue.

Despite USA’s flood relief efforts, Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s 86-year jail sentence and increased drone strikes have fuelled anti-Americanism to new heights in Pakistan. More importantly, the unprovoked helicopter air strikes, which killed three Frontier Corps soldiers, had witnessed a stinging Pakistani response and as a result NATO’s Torkham and Chaman logistics lifelines were closed for almost 10 days. In addition, with over a hundred NATO oil tankers going up in flames in Pakistan, the US administration was shocked. A few weeks earlier, a Pakistani military delegation had called off their official visit to CENTCOM in protest against the humiliation faced at the airport in Washington.
Meanwhile, Washington continues to ignore Islamabad’s strategic interests. The US is stuck to its stubborn position and ruled out any mediation between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, which is, indeed, a negation of President Obama’s commitment during his pre-White House campaign to help resolve the issue. However, the Pakistani leadership, though wrongly, expects that Obama, during his forthcoming visit to India, would prove his statesmanship and urge the Indian government to end the human rights violations in Kashmir and help resolve the dispute according to the UN resolutions.

One wonders why does the US continue to propagate that the real threat to Pakistan is from the extremists within its borders and not posed by India. This line of thinking forces Pakistanis to suspect US motives, especially when the superpower ignores the deployment of bulk of Indian war machine on its eastern borders. General Kayani’s India-centric stance, hence, makes perfect strategic sense and is in line with our national security interests.
While Holbrooke confirmed that ‘private talks’ were being held on the supply of civil nuclear technology to Pakistan, the US has also asked for details about the Pak-China civil nuclear agreement to see if it fits in with the international regime. By according preferential treatment to India in providing the civil nuclear technology, the US has disturbed the nuclear balance in South Asia and, thus, worked against Pakistan’s vital interests. But with the latest dialogue structured around 13 sectors, it has lost its strategic bias and become more tactical in nature. Accordingly, Pakistan’s core interests related to halting the drone strikes, transfer of armed drone technology, establishment of ROZs in FATA, enhanced market access or export quota for Pakistani goods or help in debt retirement or moratorium continue to remained unaddressed.

We ‘rejoiced’ at Obama’s unscheduled meeting with the Pakistani delegation, where he stated his support for democracy and stability in Pakistan. For many, his announcement to visit Pakistan next year was an ‘achievement’. But by choosing to visit India – Pakistan’s arch – rival first has he not snubbed his principal coalition partner in the war on terror? Where is the respect for the ‘most allied ally’ which sacrificed thousands of its soldiers and civilians to make America safe?
Undoubtedly, there are fundamental differences between Pakistan’s strategic understanding with China vis-à-vis the ongoing interaction with the US. While Pakistan enjoys a deep strategic partnership with its Chinese friends, based on sincerity, mutual trust and free of coercion or strings, the cosmetic dialogue with the US is more of a game of chess clouded under suspicion and mistrust. With the Chinese there is less of dialogue and more of substance, that has produced marvels like the Karakoram Highway, Gwadar Port, Aeronautical Complex Kamra, Heavy Industries Taxila and Chashma nuclear reactors involving complete transfer of technology. On the contrary, the $2.29 billion military assistance pledge for 2012 to 2016, which is subject to US Congress approval and that approximates to a yearly $400 million plus, can be best described as peanuts and would fail to compensate for the losses and wear and tear of military equipment. Given their prohibitive prices, even used or refurbished F-16s and Cobra helicopters would be out of reach, a fact recently confirmed by our Defence Minister.
Back to their old and crafty game of threats and sanctions when their interests are at stake, the US may be planning to invoke its Leahy Amendment and stop military supplies to Pakistan’s military alleged for human rights abuses of militants in FATA. Released on the internet, few weeks ago, was the related video intended to embarrass the Pak Army and General Kayani in particular during the Washington encounter? While Kayani had already ordered a high-level investigation to verify the genuineness of the video, the US seems to have lost the high moral ground after WikiLeaks latest disclosures of extrajudicial killings and slaughter of Iraqis and Afghans by its occupying forces.
The US alliance with Pakistan seems to be based solely on self-serving security interests. Certainly, Pakistan army’s offensive in North Wazir-istan remains the real bone of contention. Also, reportedly, Pakistan is being pressurised by the US to recruit more soldiers, as military trainers, and CIA operatives apparently to fight the militants. Some of the US appeasement tactics during the dialogue are, therefore, understandable. But the questions are: With the Afghan end game in progress, why should Pak Army kill or alienate those who are friendly towards Pakistan? Why sacrifice our long-term interests for the America’s short-term goals?
Nevertheless, the US would commit suicide, if it took the war into Pakistan through ground or air ‘hot pursuit’ operations in FATA. Any arm-twisting of Pakistan’s army by deliberately holding back military supplies or delaying the Coalition Support Fund payments that remain Pakistan’s legitimate rights could prove counterproductive. As witnessed recently, the closure of NATO supply route through Pakistan for prolonged periods could cripple NATO/ISAF’s operation ‘Dragon Strike’, which is the largest ever offensive against the Taliban’s stronghold of Kandahar. Thus, the US and NATO forces can ill afford to strike discord with Pakistan’s army at this critical stage.
A majority of Pakistanis wonder: Was it really worth sacrificing so much in terms of life and blood in support of the US misadventure in Afghanistan? Does the US plan to target its coalition partner? Will Pakistan ever be treated like an ally and not as a satellite? But in all the hype and claims of ‘success’ in the Pakistani camp that followed the dialogue, did anyone hear Dr Aafia’s lone and feeble cry from a distant US prison?

The writer is a retired Brigadier and can be reached at fhkhan54[at]gmail.com


One comment

  1. agar urdu main read karna hu tu kia karon? army k general ko english ati hai hamain nai agar ye posts sirf generals k leye he hain tu thek hai aam admi ko jo urdu janta hai agar wo isay pharna b chay tu phar nai sakta ye b koi fouj ke hikmatay amli hu ge…

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