Wednesday, March 24, 2010
PAK DAYDREAM - WAKE UP CALL
Shekhar Gupta writes on Pakistan: When policy is left to a tiny soldier-spook cabal, you get the kind of disaster that has followed each such moment in the subcontinent’s history. Pakistan’s larger tragedy, in fact, is that its strategy has often been crafted by purely tactical minds (read Military) . That is not how great nations function: their strategy is devised by strategists and implemented by tacticians.
On Water: The new turn in the Pakistani Establishment, the Kayani speech, the water non-paper and the sudden and brazen re-surfacing of Hafiz Saeed (exhorting Pak military line that India is drying up Pakistan by witholding water) are to be fully understood in this context.
Shekhar Gupta writing elsewhere states if Pakistan were to take over Kashmir, they will not be able to give an extra ounce of water more than what India is sharing with it today. Primary cause is that Punjab region is Pakistan is using up the lion's share of water coming in from Kashmir and they are not distributing it to its other provinces. Blaming India suits its purpose but cant blind the people of Pakistan for long.
Look at this map - the importance of Kashmir, its dams and waters become important. If India were to truly turn the tap off, Pakistan will become a desert as Hamid Gul predicted.
THE FULL ORIGINAL ARTICLE (c) SHEKHAR GUPTA - INDIAN EXPRESS:
There is a phenomenon peculiar to the Pakistani Establishment, that unique combination of its army, intelligence agencies and bureaucracy that constitutes its permanent government, and therefore spelt with a capital “E”. Every 10 or 12 years, it starts believing that it is winning. Winning what, how and to what effect, are not facts it wants to be confused with. It just believes, at that particular moment, that it is “winning” against India. This is when the foundation of an impending disaster is laid. Unfortunately, if you’ve been exasperated at the sudden turn in the Pakistani Establishment’s conduct, you have to understand that they are currently caught in the throes of another such irrational euphoria. They again think they are “winning”.
The first phase of madness was 1947-48, that led to the invasion of Kashmir and ruined our relationship at the very start. The next came along with our war with China which, they thought, was a wonderful time again to seize Kashmir, through negotiated, US/UK-backed blackmail (India was desperately seeking American military aid then) and, when that failed, through war against a recently “defeated” army. That led to the misadventure of 1965. That moment of madness came yet again in 1971, when they misread the significance of their emergence as the link between Nixon’s America and China to mean that they had a superpower shield and could crush the revolt in their eastern half as brutally as they wished. They lost half of Pakistan.
Then, almost exactly 12 years later they saw another “wonderful” opportunity in India’s Punjab, with rising Sikh militancy. This was just the moment to wage a war of a thousand cuts they were perfecting along with the Americans in Afghanistan. That phase of belligerence was put down only after the reality check of the Operation Brasstacks standoff in 1987. But check the IMF/ World Bank figures of annual economic growth. It is around this time that Pakistan permanently lost the sizeable edge it had maintained against India in terms of economic growth. In 1993, again, came the next moment of the same “we are winning” illusion, because of troubles in our Kashmir and the victory of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. A full-fledged
“Jehad” was launched in Kashmir, the consequences of which we are all facing till today. I would treat Kargil and the Kandahar hijack as part of the same continuing madness and it was all cut short by 9/11. Almost a decade after Kargil now, you see the same Establishment believe that they are “winning”. Our challenge, therefore, is to assess what is causing this “winning” feeling in Islamabad/ Pindi and what disaster, for Pakistan, and collaterally for us, this could lead to.
If you want to put a date to the beginning of this new mood, it would perhaps be Obama’s West Point address when he nearly set a deadline for the US withdrawal. The Pakistani GHQ read it as American acceptance of the unwinnability of the Afghan war. This was the window of critical relevance they were looking for. This lifted for them the shadow of 26/11. If Obama wanted to leave any time next year, it could only be after striking some kind of a deal with a faction of the Taliban. Only Pakistan could bring about that deal, and also guarantee the future conduct of the new regime. In one stroke then, this will give Pakistan a diplomatic indispensability to the Americans while they are here, and strategic depth once they are gone. That new position could then be leveraged by demanding a settlement of basic, “root-causes” issues with India, sidelining the problem of the India-specific Lashkars. The new turn in the Pakistani Establishment, the Kayani speech, the water non-paper and the sudden and brazen re-surfacing of Hafiz Saeed are to be fully understood in this context.
To be fair, most civilian politicians in Pakistan do not share this illusion, but at this point they count for nothing. Similarly the civil society, the free, moderate and modern sections of the media would be seriously concerned by this. But Pakistan’s political class and civil society have been greatly undermined in the past year, and some of the blame for that lies at the doors of its feuding president and prime minister. When policy is left to a tiny soldier-spook cabal, you get the kind of disaster that has followed each such moment in the subcontinent’s history. Pakistan’s larger tragedy, in fact, is that its strategy has often been crafted by purely tactical minds. That is not how great nations function: their strategy is devised by strategists and implemented by tacticians. But that is a problem the people of Pakistan and its civil society will solve, though in the course of time.
So how should we deal with this new situation? First of all, keep engaging with Pakistan. It is a process that would have been much more effective had it been resumed three months earlier, but still, build on that first meeting. Second, look for where your leverage lies in the region’s new reality. This entire new daydream is predicated upon the Americans being able to fight with some degree of effectiveness for another year or so, so they could find a faction of the Taliban willing to settle. Obama cannot leave Afghanistan as Nixon had fled Vietnam. To fight effectively, he needs every platoon of the forces the Pakistanis had re-deployed to the west from their classical eastern, India-facing posture. This has also been made possible by some Indian cooperation. For example, if India had moved even one division towards the border after 26/11, this entire game would have been upset. India now has to let the Americans and the British know that if there is another major terror attack, it may just be constrained to return to its traditional counter-terror gambit, of threatening Pakistan with a conventional response. Just a division, a few squadrons of multi-role aircraft moved westwards would have the Pakistanis rolling back all the divisions from their west to the east. This is the last thing Obama wants, and this is our most important leverage. He cannot be allowed to take our vital interests for granted.
Of course, this has to be accompanied by one more correction: the end of the six-year complacence on modernising our conventional defence. While it is fashionable to credit nuclear weapons with ensuring peace in the region, the fact is, it was the deterrence of a swift and withering conventional response that kept the Pakistani adventurists in check since 1987. In the past six years that edge has been allowed to erode, and when Manmohan Singh looks back he will be honest enough to acknowledge that as his government’s biggest failure on national security. What kind of country living in such a dangerous neighbourhood returns Rs 10,000 crore of its defence acquisition budget unspent? If Manmohan Singh can simply start fixing that and also let the Americans know that another 26/11 may, just may, see a different response from us, it would be a fine strategic response to this new challenge. It may even ensure peace in the region.