More on the Pakistan Wikileaks- US Operations Constrained by India-Pakistan Relations

My interview which has appeared on Wikileaks Central.

The Dawn Media Group in partnership with WikiLeaks has been releasing the “Pakistan Papers.” Thus far, some of the revelations include the following: US was concerned that Pakistan would oppose its policies at the United Nations; US was worried Pakistan would purchase oil from Iran, allowing them to get a foothold in Pakistan; Pakistan’s government was upset with US funding for the Pakistan military, which led to increased civil-military tensions; Pakistan’s military asked for continued drone coverage; the US has had troops deployed on Pakistan soil; Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been financing jihadist groups in Pakistan and the US did not provide Benazir Bhutto with proper security.

For this episode of “This Week in WikiLeaks,” the show has part two of an interview that was done with Raza Rumi, a writer based in Lahore, Pakistan. Rumi regularly writes for the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, The News and Daily DAWN on myriad topics such as history, arts, literature and society. Rumi has worked in Pakistan and abroad in various organizations including multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.

Rumi’s writing can be read here.

[*Note: This is the second part of “This Week in WikiLeaks” for the week. You’ll find part one, an interview with Kevin Zeese of the Bradley Manning Support Network on the one year anniversary of Manning’s arrest here.]

You can also click here and select it from the list of episodes (it’s called “Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers”). And, also, it can be found by searching iTunes for “CMN News.”

Below is a partial transcript of the second part of Raza Rumi’s interview. (If you have not heard the beginning, here is the first part of the interview.)


KEVIN GOSZTOLA, host: Throughout the cables you’ll see Pakistani leaders suggesting to the United States officials give Pakistan control over the technology and bombing of the militants and they’re pretty open to letting the United States be in the country to carry out the operations. In your analysis of the situation, why do you think the US isn’t letting Pakistani leaders take over and have more control?

RAZA RUMI, Pakistan-based editor/blogger: Again, all of this is pretty complicated because of the history. This is not a new partnership but a decades old relationship that has seen its ups and downs. The relationship has been there since the mid 1950s, when the US was forging alliances to contain Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Pakistani state’s policy, especially its military policy, has been to collaborate in lieu for US support – financial and technical. This policy continues to date. These cables reveal that this historical relationship is pretty much intact.

The problem is that many Pakistanis believe that after the removal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan the US abandoned Pakistan, leaving us high and dry, facing all sorts of sanctions in the late 80s and during most of the 90s. That major letdown has led to political public opinion against the US and I think the army is very conscious of that; and that is why it has been arguing for acquisition of the technology for drone strikes, etc.

And, the second issue is that the army is very much an India-centric army. The entire military machine, its might, its strategy, is all directed towards India. In this particular real and imagined combat with India it needs the support of the two big powers i.e. the US and China. The Chinese have been helping Pakistan due to the regional complexities but the US has always kept its national interests above all such considerations. And in this context these discussions on allowing the US troops and bargaining for acquisition of technology make sense because it sort of creates some semblance of equality between the two countries.

GOSZTOLA: What would you have to say about how India is part of the complications the United States has with Pakistan? Is the US manipulating the conflict between India and Pakistan, to get better bargains in the War on Terror?

RUMI: I would say that one of the key constraints that the US has faced is Pakistan’s reluctance to allow Indian influence in Pakistan. Because the way Pakistani army thinks is that we face a very formidable enemy on the eastern border (India), and on the western border, Afghanistan. The army has this questionable policy of strategic depth where they think that by having effective control of its western borders it can fortify the country’s defense. This is very conventional military thinking and that’s how the institution thinks.

The efforts of the Americans in fighting the Taliban have not been helped by this constraint. The reason that the Afghan Taliban are now in a strong bargaining position and Pakistan is basically behind them and willing to find a solution for the US exit, provides that Pakistan gets seat at the policy table and gets something in return for it’s security against India. This now in turn conflicts with the Indian expansionism that has also been ongoing for the last decade or so. Because traditionally, India thinks that Afghanistan has been a historical part of the Indian sub-continent – not formally but through all the trade, culture and commerce ties – and it feels that it needs to have influence there. And, also, don’t forget that Afghanistan is at the gateway of the energy rich Central Asian republics, which can serve the growing needs of India as a regional power like China.

Therefore, I think that the issue is rather complicated and unfortunately, though the US has tried to mediate, it does not have the same leverage with India that it does with Pakistan. India has basically not paid much heed to US advice and hence the stalemated imbroglio continues on this issue.

RUMI: Are you familiar with Christine Fair’s paper on India’s Afghanistan policy? She argues that basically the Indian policy is now in trouble as regards to Afghanistan because there can be no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistani involvement and which would mean that the regional and global power shift will move towards getting a settlement in which Pakistan has a stake and which directly influences the Indian ambitions in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the West and NATO now need to really focus on some sort of agreement between India and Pakistan not just on Afghanistan but also for regional and global peace. Because, if there is a settlement on the thorny issue of Kashmir and other at least half a dozen serious issues and if they start to trade, there are higher chances of achieving a sustainable durable peace in Afghanistan, which does not involve pandering or bowing before the terrorist networks.

Now, this is a tough job. Ultimately, in the end Pakistan (and India) have to act like mature neighbours, but the international community can play a role in facilitating linkages and convincing the leaderships on both sides that they have to give and take.

I would really underscore that this issue is so deep and so huge that it is often ignored in the global policy debates on the War on Terror and most assessments either bypass or underplay this issue. The Afghanistan situation cannot be viewed in isolation of the existing tensions within South Asia, especially between Pakistan and India. It has turned into a subset of the regional conflict because there is a proxy war of sorts going on between Indian and Pakistani military machines in Afghanistan.

GOSZTOLA: What about the revelation that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been funding jihadist groups in Pakistan?

RUMI: Now that is deeply, deeply worrying. That’s another aspect, which underscores the hypocrisy of Pakistan’s policymakers because they are very quick to condemn the US intervention and US policies, however, they are very easy on Saudi Arabia and UAE when they finance a particular brand of Islamism in Pakistan and help flourish terrorist networks within Pakistan. It is a cause of concern chiefly for Pakistanis because their soil and their country is being used for a most heinous sectarian warfare between the Wahhabi Islam financed by the petro-dollars of the Gulf states versus the Shiite part of the Islamic world led by Iran. And because Iran is in the immediate neighborhood, it is also a player and a stakeholder in the final settlement of Afghanistan – because it would not like a very strong American influence in Afghanistan since that affects its long-term security. I don’t agree with Iran’s concerns, but that’s how they think.

The Saudis since the late 70s have used jihad in Afghanistan as an opportunity for the proliferation of the Wahhabi-Salafi versions of Islam. It’s a particular and a peculiar ideology which focuses on ‘purity’ and does not accept pluralism within the Islamic fold. Now that may work in the Arab world or in some other parts of the world but that comes into direct conflict with the way south Asian Islam is organized and exists.

South Asian Islam is a hybrid of the ancient traditions that existed in India before the arrival of Islam including Buddhism, Mysticism, Hinduism…And when Islam arrived, it sort of accepted some of those broad streams and a hybrid, tolerant, plural version of Islam was generated during the last one millennia. Wahabi Islam actually wants to undo that. That is why you have so many attacks on Sufi shrines and other places of worship which belong to sects of Islam which Wahhabi Islam thinks are infidels, like how Wahhabis view the Shiites as infidel. So, I think one aspect is sectarian warfare.


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