How the Future of South Asia Can Change!
By Raza Rumi
Since Pakistanâ€™s inception, its relationship with India hasÂ been mired by insecurity, hostility, suspicion and mistrust. Independence in 1947 was followed by conflict over theÂ disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute eventually led to the 1965 war, and that episode wasÂ subsequently followed by the Tashkent Declaration. Yet, theÂ Tashkent Declaration was a short-lived attempt at forgingÂ amiable ties between both States as six years later, amidÂ political and ethnic turmoil in Pakistan, in 1971 a second warÂ took place. Â East Pakistan had declared independence, and West Pakistan lost its Eastern arm, partly due to Indian intervention inÂ what was largely seen as an internal matter, in Pakistan.Â Pakistan blamed India for facilitating Bangladeshi nationalists and their quest for independence after being politicallyÂ and ethnically discriminated. Despite Bangladesh gaining independence, enmity between the two States ratcheted up further, as India flexed itsÂ muscles and tested its nuclear weapons capability in 1974,Â and again in 1998. In response, Pakistan conducted its ownÂ nuclear weapons tests in 1998, which subsequently heightened tensions in the already volatile relationship betweenÂ both countries.
The relationship between the United States and PakistanÂ have largely been viewed through a contextual global prism since the countryâ€™s inception in 1947. The US was one of theÂ first countries to set up diplomatic ties with Pakistan, yet relations soured with the advent of the Cold War whichÂ shaped the former to pursue a relationship with Pakistan, as aÂ balancing power against China and the Union of SovietÂ Socialist Republics. Economic aid provided to Pakistan hasÂ been largely, military in nature and Pakistan continues toÂ remain as an important Non-North Atlantic TreatyÂ Organization ally today.
After 1970, with the election of the leftist Pakistan Peopleâ€™sÂ Party government, the already transactional relationship found itself in troubled waters, due to outright condemna-tion of war atrocities committed by the Pakistan militaryÂ during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The relationship took another turn in the 1980s, after theÂ Soviet coup in Afghanistan, and saw the US, the CentralÂ Intelligence Agency and the Zia-ul Haq-led governmentÂ cooperate to curb the Soviet expansion in Afghanistan, aÂ view to helping Afghan insurgents stave off the USSR.
Yet in the 1990s, Pakistanâ€™s acquisition of nuclear weaponsÂ led to economic and military sanctions from the US, whichÂ were later lifted, after the US-led war on terror in 9/11, as theÂ US sought the country as a vital ally in the War on Terror,Â given its geographical proximity to the restive country.Â Unlike Pakistan, whose military and economic security concerns necessitated and alignment with Russia or China,Â India sought no such alliance, and was in fact one of the pioneers of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, Indiaâ€™sÂ implementation of socialist policies led it to form a cooperative relationship with the USSR, which frayed its relationsÂ with the US.
The US, however, still sought improvements in their relationship with the country, primarily because it sawÂ India as an effective counterweight against China, ifÂ not the USSR (and even supported India in the 1962Â Sino-Indian war). Â TheÂ US support for Pakistan also led to tensionsÂ between India and the US. After Indiaâ€™s nuclear testsÂ in the 1990s, sanctions were imposed by the USÂ (though they were ineffective in ensuring that proliferation activities were abated). Â Recent relations between India and the US haveÂ considerably strengthened, particularly in the lateÂ 2000s, due to Indiaâ€™s economic liberalization; withÂ substantive cooperation in sectors such as IT, theÂ signing of a 10-year defence framework agreementÂ along with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, signed inÂ 2008. Â After 9/11, the US primarily sought Pakistan, as itsÂ strongest ally in the War on Terror. However, the USâ€™sÂ global strategic concerns still factored Chinaâ€™s increasing economic and military might as the biggest threatÂ to its superpower status, which mean that India wasÂ subsequently viewed as the greatest foil to China.Â Shared concerns over China, Islamic terrorism andÂ energy security ensured increased cooperationÂ between the two countries. The relationship alsoÂ strengthened over the USâ€™s desire to ensure thatÂ Indian ingress in Afghanistan expands.
On the other hand, the Pakistani establishmentÂ feared Indian involvement in the country, more soÂ when India started to pour in development moneyÂ and opened up many consulates throughoutÂ Afghanistan.Â Pakistanâ€™s concerns seem to be well founded asÂ influential opinion in the US continues to argue forÂ increased Indian involvement in rebuilding Afghanistan.Â Despite the Taliban being important to Pakistanâ€™s historical policy of â€˜strategic depthâ€™ within the region, the countryÂ sided with the US over the latterâ€™s involvement inÂ Afghanistan. This led to sanctions against Pakistan beingÂ lifted, along with increased military and economic aid.Â The relationship, however, has swayed considerably. ManyÂ in the US believe that Pakistan is duplicitous in its relation-ship with the US by continuing to support the Taliban, anÂ allegation that Pakistan categorically denies and has continued to deny. Subsequently, US officials often accusedÂ Pakistan of not doing enough with regards to its efforts inÂ capturing the Taliban within the countryâ€™s North WestÂ restive belt. Even more devastatingly however, have been events suchÂ as the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in the garrison cityÂ of Abbottabad and its subsequent fallout (primarily aboutÂ whether Pakistan knew about his presence in the country),Â along with the Salala incident where Pakistani soldiers wereÂ victims of a drone attack.
Over the past decade many diplomatic and military con-flicts have arisen between the two nations, where consider-able disagreement exists over the involvement of the Inter-services Intelligence in terror networks spread throughoutÂ Afghanistan, US drone strikes, the presence of CIA operatives in Pakistan or the ISIâ€™s involvement in extrajudicialÂ killings.
Pakistanâ€™s relationship with the US hasÂ always been fairly complicated, butÂ ostensibly one of the few constantsÂ has been the Pakistan publicâ€™s perception of its relationship. Â A recent Pew survey suggests that only 11Â percent of Pakistanis have a favourableÂ view of the US, down from 12 percent lastÂ year and 23 percent in 2000. Much of theÂ Pakistani publicâ€™s opinion is shaped byÂ media narratives, but occasionally USÂ floundering in Pakistan â€” such as theÂ Raymond Davis debacle â€” helps cementÂ anti-American narratives.
Similarly, while both the military andÂ political establishment continue to seekÂ and rely on US aid, they are loath to admitÂ so in public. Drone strikes within theÂ Federally Administered Tribal Areas, forÂ example, do not occur without tacit con-sent from the Pakistani establishment; yetÂ every drone strike is condemned by the military and political leaders, giving rise to increasing anti-American sentiment.Â With US troops on a tight timeline ofÂ withdrawal from Afghanistan, questionsÂ remain about the viability of a post-withdrawal Afghan government. Though Pakistan is invariably vital in how the region progresses after US troops withdrawal, Secretary Kerryâ€™s statements about the significance of Indiaâ€™s involvement has raisedÂ flags in Pakistan. The US view is understandable, (particularly with regard to India helping set up and strengthen the Afghan democratic pr-ogress), it shows little regard for Pakistanâ€™sÂ concerns about Indian involvement in Afghanistan.
Peddled by the media and occasionally byÂ the political establishment itself, conspiracy theories regarding the India-US allianceÂ have become alarmingly common amongstÂ Pakistani discourse on the regionâ€™s politics.Â The CIA often gets credit for terrorism inÂ FATA â€” as it continues to be done so forÂ Malala Yousufzai â€” and Indiaâ€™s intelligenceÂ services are routinely declared as the funding and services behind terrorist attacks inÂ Pakistanâ€™s major cities.
For many, the India-US alliance existsÂ purely to facilitate the fall of the IslamicÂ Republic of Pakistan â€” a State feared forÂ being the only Islamic nuclear power in theÂ world. Hence too, the USâ€™s emphasis andÂ concern for the safety of Pakistanâ€™s nuclearÂ weapons. The fear of denuclearisation feeds off ofÂ the pride of Pakistan being the worldâ€™s onlyÂ Islamic State with nuclear technologyÂ and prowess. Though US concern forÂ Pakistanâ€™s nuclear warheads has neverÂ been secret, the extent of that fear andÂ their efforts to keep tabs on it has neverÂ been fully made public till now.Â Documents leaked by EdwardÂ Snowden show that intelligence concentration on Pakistan is unparalleled,with special emphasis placed on Pakistanâ€™sÂ nuclear weapons program, and the risksÂ associated with it. Both India and the USÂ have considerable fears over Pakistanâ€™sÂ nuclear program, worrying that increasingÂ radicalisation in Pakistan, as well as militant organizations such as the Taliban,Â might gain access to the weaponry.
Pakistanâ€™s history of proliferation (ostensibly led by individuals such as Dr A Q Khan)Â adds substance to these worries. Â The Afghanistan issue, even more so withÂ US withdrawal or drawdown (the planÂ seems woefully unclear) in 2014, is an incredibly complex and contentious one. BothÂ India and Pakistan seek involvement in theÂ country, for very different self-serving andÂ geopolitical reasons. Â Pakistan often accuses India, as a result,Â of unnecessary involvement in the regionÂ and of using Indiaâ€™s intelligence services toÂ operate along the Durand Line and tryingÂ to pry Pakistani soldiers from its EasternÂ front towards FATA.
India offering to train Afghan armed forces and police, Pakistan fears ins-urgent movements separate from the Taliban, trained by India and aimed at bogging the Pakistani armed forces down. Pakistan believes that by doing so, IndiaÂ would be able to focus on its own greaterÂ regional power concerns, without having toÂ focus significantly on itself.Â India has a history to contend with too.Â Under the Taliban regime, Afghan soil wasÂ used against India as well. But these misgivings are not intractable. Pakistanâ€™s newÂ government under the civilian PrimeÂ Minister Nawaz Sharif aims to reset theÂ relations with India.
Modest progress was made during theÂ previous government in terms of trade andÂ visa liberalization. The two countries canÂ start talking about Afghanistan to beginÂ with. The US will leave the region, butÂ India and Pakistan are permanent neighbours and the dictates of geography demand a saner policy course.Â The future of South Asia and the courseÂ of India-Pakistan-US relations can change if all powerÂ re-imagine the future andÂ work towards building solidÂ areas of convergence.Â India-China trade isÂ growing and US-ChinaÂ trade relations are wellÂ known. Pakistan can enterÂ into the post-2014 phase asÂ an energy hub with twoÂ ports and access to CentralÂ Asian energy reserves.
It is still notÂ too late to do that.
First published on September 27, 2013